Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Welcome to Foreign Policy Editors’ Picks for April 14 2015, FP’s round-up of the day’s best articles of the day.
Today, we look at Iran and Saudi Arabia’s power struggle, the aftermath of the Garissa attack in Kenya, and why the United States and Nigeria failed to bring the Chibok girls back.
KILL>CAPTURE: The Obama administration’s explicit policy is to capture suspected terrorists, not kill them. So why is the opposite taking place? FP’s Micah Zenko explores what’s behind the president’s affinity for drones:
Read more at foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/14/kil…
Outmuscling the kingdom: The War in Yemen has exposed a naked struggle for influence between Riyadh and Tehran in the Middle East — and the Islamic Republic is coming out on top:
Read more at foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/14/yem…
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE MOGADISHU: In the wake of the Garissa University attack, Somali expats in a Nairobi neighborhood are caught between an increasingly indiscriminate al Shabab and a heavy handed police force:
Read more at foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/14/ken…
THE OTHER KIND OF GRIDLOCK: Despite the White House’s objections, Democrats sided with Republicans to unanimously approve a bill that could scuttle a final nuclear deal with Iran. FP’s John Hudson reports: Read more at: THE OTHER KIND OF GRIDLOCK: Despite the White House’s objections, Democrats sided with Republicans to unanimously approve a bill that could scuttle a final nuclear deal with Iran. FP’s John Hudson reports:
Read more at foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/14/cor…
STILL NOT BACK: One year ago, the Chibok girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. FP’s David Francis reports on how the United States and Nigeria failed to rescue the 219 abducted girls:
Read more at foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/14/why…
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
This Country Belongs to All of Us, Not Just the Billionaire Class.
By US Senator from Vermont – Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News
06 April 2015
“We must launch a political revolution which engages millions of Americans from all walks of life in the struggle for real change.”
The good news is that the economy today is much better than it was six years ago when George W. Bush left office. The bad news is that, despite these improvements, the 40-year decline of the American middle class continues. Real unemployment is much too high, 35 million Americans continue to have no health insurance and more of our friends and neighbors are living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country.
Meanwhile, as the rich become much richer, the level of income and wealth inequality has reached obscene and unimaginable levels. In the United States, we have the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth, and worse now than at any other time since the 1920s.
Today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent of our nation owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and one family owns more wealth than the bottom 42 percent. In terms of income, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.
This is what a rigged economic system looks like.
At a time when millions of American workers have seen declines in their incomes and are working longer hours for lower wages, the wealth of the billionaire class is soaring in a way that few can imagine. If you can believe it, between 2013 and 2015, the 14 wealthiest individuals in the country saw their net worth increase by over $157 billion dollars. Children go hungry, veterans sleep out on the streets, senior citizens cannot afford their prescription drugs — and 14 individuals saw a $157 billion dollar increase in their wealth over a two-year period.
The grotesque level of income and wealth inequality we are experiencing is not just a moral and economic issue, it is a political issue as well. As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires are now able to spend unlimited sums of money to buy the candidates they want. The Koch brothers, an extreme right-wing family, recently announced that they were prepared to spend some $900 million in the next election cycle. This is likely more money than either the Democratic or Republican parties will spend. If you think that it is an accident that the Republican Party has become a far-right party, think again. The Koch brothers’ agenda — ending Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the U.S. Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and all campaign finance limitations — has become the agenda of the Republican candidates they fund.
And, by the way, if you think that the Republican Party’s refusal to acknowledge that climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is a severe threat to our planet, is not related to how we finance campaigns, you would be sorely mistaken. With the Koch brothers (who make much of their money in the fossil fuel industry) and big energy companies strongly supporting Republican candidates, it should not surprise anyone that my Republican colleagues reject the views of the overwhelming majority of scientists who study climate issues.
With Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress, let me briefly touch on some of the battles that I will be helping to lead in this extreme right-wing environment. In my view, with so many of our fellow citizens demoralized about the political process, it is absolutely imperative that we establish a strong progressive agenda that Americans can rally around. It must be an agenda that reflects the real needs of the working families of our country. It must be an agenda that engages people in a political struggle that they are prepared to fight for.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: The truth is that real unemployment in our country is not the “official” and widely-reported 5.5 percent. Counting those who are under-employed and those who have given up looking for work, real unemployment is 11 percent. Even more disturbingly, youth unemployment is close to 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that.
If we are truly serious about reversing the decline of the middle class and putting millions of people back to work, we need a major federal jobs program. There are a number of approaches which can be taken, but the fastest way to create jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure — roads, bridges, dams, levees, airports, rail, water systems and wastewater plants.
In that regard, I have introduced legislation which would invest $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure. This legislation would create and maintain at least 13 million good-paying jobs. It would also make our country more productive, efficient and safe.
I will also continue my opposition to our current trade policies and vote against fast tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Simply put, our trade policies have failed. Permanent normal trade relations with China have led to the loss of more than 3.2 million American jobs. The North American Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of nearly 1 million jobs. The Korean Free Trade Agreement has led to the loss of some 60,000 jobs.
We have got to fundamentally rewrite our trade rules so that American jobs are no longer our No.1 export. Corporate America must start investing in this country, not China.
As we struggle for decent-paying jobs, we must also rebuild the trade union movement. Throughout the country, millions of workers want to join unions but are meeting fierce opposition from their employers. We need legislation that makes it easier, not harder, for unions to flourish.
Raising Wages: Today, millions of Americans are working for starvation wages. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is totally inadequate. In fact, the real value of today’s minimum wage has declined by one-third since 1968. By raising the minimum wage to a living wage we can provide an increase in income for those people who need it the most. Our goal must be that no full-time worker in this country lives in poverty.
We must also bring about pay equity. There is no rational reason why women should be earning 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who perform the same work.
Further, we have got to expand overtime protections for millions of workers. It is absurd that “supervisors” who earn $25,000 a year are currently forced to work 50 or 60 hours a week with no overtime pay. Raising the income threshold to at least $56,680 from the absurdly low level of $23,660 a year for overtime will mean increased income for many millions of salaried workers.
Addressing Wealth and Income Inequality: Today the richest 400 Americans own more than $2.3 trillion in wealth, more than the bottom 150 million Americans combined. Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans have less than $10,000 in savings and have no idea how they will be able to retire with dignity.
We need real tax reform which makes the rich and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that in 1952 corporate income taxes provided 32 percent of federal revenue while in 2014 they provided 11 percent. It is scandalous that major profitable corporations like General Electric, Verizon, Citigroup and JP Morgan have, in a given recent year, paid nothing in federal income taxes. It is fiscally irresponsible that the U.S. Treasury loses about $100 billion a year because corporations and the rich stash their profits in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other tax havens.
Warren Buffett is honest. He has pointed out the unfairness of him, a multi-billionaire, paying a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. It is disgraceful that millionaire hedge fund managers are able to pay lower tax effective tax rates than truck drivers or nurses because they take advantage of a variety of loopholes that their lobbyists wrote.
This must end. We need a tax system which is fair and progressive. Children should not go hungry in this country while profitable corporations and the wealthy avoid their tax responsibilities.
Reversing Climate Change: The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good-paying jobs.
Health Care for All: The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance and many more are under-insured. Yet, we continue paying far more per capita for health care than any other nation. The United States must move toward a Medicare-for-All single-payer system.
Protecting Our Most Vulnerable: Today the United States has more people living in poverty than at almost any time in the modern history of our country. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation, 35 million Americans still lack health insurance and millions of seniors and disabled people struggle to put food on the table because of insufficient Social Security benefits.
The Republican response to the economic pain of so many of our people was to make a bad situation much worse. The recently-passed Republican budget throws 27 million Americans off of health insurance, cuts Medicare, makes huge cuts to nutrition and makes it harder for working class families to afford college or put their kids in the Head Start program.
In my view, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that no American goes hungry or sleeps out on the streets. We must also make certain that seniors and people with disabilities can live in dignity. Not only must we vigorously oppose Republican attacks on the social safety net, we must expand benefits for those in need. That is why I have recently introduced legislation which would increase the solvency of Social Security until 2065, while expanding benefits for those who need them the most.
Making College Affordable for All: We live in a highly competitive global economy. If this country is to do well economically, we need to have the best-educated workforce in the world. Yet today many Americans cannot get a higher education, not because they are unqualified, but because they simply cannot afford it. Millions of others who do graduate from college or graduate school are drowning in debt. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the United States has tripled in the last 10 years, and has now reached $1.2 trillion.
The United States must join many other countries in understanding that investing in our young people’s education is investing in the future of our nation. I will soon be introducing legislation to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lower interest rates on student loans.
And these are just SOME of the issues we are dealing with.
Let me conclude this letter by stating the obvious. This country is in serious trouble. Our economic system benefits the rich and large corporations and leaves working families behind. Our political system is dominated by billionaire campaign contributors and their lobbyists and is moving us in the direction of oligarchy. Our media system, owned by the corporate world, spends enormous time and energy diverting our attention away from the most important issues facing us. Climate change threatens the planet and we have a major political party denying its reality.
Clearly, the struggle to create a nation and world of economic and social justice and environmental sanity is not an easy one. But this I know: despair is not an option if we care about our kids and grandchildren. Giving up is not an option if we want to prevent irreparable harm to our planet.
We must stand up and fight back. We must launch a political revolution which engages millions of Americans from all walks of life in the struggle for real change. This country belongs to all of us, not just the billionaire class.
Please join the grass-roots revolution that we desperately need.
-20 # Depressionborn 2015-04-06 12:39
For sure Senator Bernie Sanders well describes the situation. But in the past his solutions have made things worse.
For example it is not unusual to find a well off person who once was in poverty. Bernie may know how they did it. It wasn’t socialism. It won’t happen with socialism. So what causes poverty?
Who is getting rich off a 0 interest rate? Profit $ once used to create jobs now go to banking and finance. What happened? More tax will not bring jobs back.
What is Bernie going to revolt us into?
+13 # Barbara K 2015-04-06 13:16
We have many in Congress now who think they are there to work for only the Billionaires and Millionaires; not all of us. I suppose it would be a surprise to them to know they are there to serve ALL Americans, that includes us. If they don’t want to serve all of us, time to kick them out of Congress. We get that chance every election, if enough get out to vote to make a difference.
0 # Nell H 2015-04-06 14:36
Congress serves their employers — the people who give $$ to their campaigns. Congress does not care about the rest of us because most Americans complain a lot, but they don’t bother to vote.
-1 # ctcarole 2015-04-06 14:47
You constantly suggest voting the “bad” guys out but it never happens. The choice is always between Republican bad guys or Democrat bad guys or people of either of those parties who have no chance of winning. When was the last time you actually had a choice for hope and change? Oh yeah. How is that one working out?
+2 # ctcarole 2015-04-06 13:48
The title of this article is wrong. The country does indeed belong to the billionaire class. What’s important now is what “The All of Us” is going to do about it. Electing more Republicrats isn’t going to do it. Bernie’s chances of becoming President are slimmer than a gnat’s ankles and even if he could be elected the Republicrats in congress will have a veto-proof majority to override anything he might want to do that would go against the billionaires. I fear I’m too old to see it but people start revolutions when they don’t have enough to eat. That time is coming and revolution is the only way failed governments change.
0 # jimallyn 2015-04-06 14:42
Quoting ctcarole: “Bernie’s chances of becoming President are slimmer than a gnat’s ankles.”
Only because people like you don’t have the good sense to vote for people who will actually represent them, and prefer to vote for lesser of two evils candidates like that Republican Hillary Clinton.
0 # Henry 2015-04-06 14:45
Bernie’s chances of becoming President are slimmer than a gnat’s ankles
Carole, I’m familiar with this thought myself. But I’m curious why you think he has no chance.
+1 # thoughtr2 2015-04-06 13:52
Hard to believe that in this long diatribe, our champion Bernard Sanders does not mention war or the military nor in his last one. That is the economic engine of our beloved America. Perhaps he needs to be informed. Is the F-35 in the back of his mind? What do you all make of this?
+1 # Henry 2015-04-06 14:41
Quoting thoughtr2: “Hard to believe that in this long diatribe, our champion Bernard Sanders does not mention war or the military nor in his last one. That is the economic engine of our beloved America. Perhaps he needs to be informed.”
Hey thoughtr2, you might want to watch the video of Evan Smith’s interview with Sanders, about 2/3 of the way down this page: berniesanders.com/blog/highlight… He definitely is informed about military spending (although yes, the F-35 is an elephant in the room … )
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The Guardian Divests $1.2 Billion Fund From Fossil Fuels.
By Bill McKibben, EcoWatch
04 April 15
Here’s how far we’ve come in just a couple of years: One of the world’s most respected and influential news organizations —
the Guardian Media Group — announced Wednesday that it will divest from fossil fuels.
The move follows the launch of The Guardian‘s own climate change campaign, in partnership with 350.org, to press two of the world’s largest charitable foundations to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.
The chairman of the Guardian Media Group called the move a “hard-nosed business decision” that is justified on both ethical and financial grounds. I couldn’t agree more.
It was also the second billion-dollar divestment commitment in just two days: Syracuse University in New York also ditched fossil fuels this week, demonstrating once again that cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry is both feasible and responsible.
Now is the time to increase the pressure on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust — two of the world’s largest charities, and both explicitly dedicated to global health — to do the same.
Can you help us reach 200,000 signatures this week?
Add your name to the petition calling on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to stop investing in the climate crisis.
The Guardian Media Group is leading by example by divesting its entire £800 million (aka $1.2 billion) fund from fossil fuels and committing to invest in socially responsible alternatives instead. You can watch a video and find out more about The Guardian decision here.
When the roll of honor for action on climate change is someday called, I believe The Guardian’s name will be high on the list. They’ve taken a bold step in joining the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground, both through their journalism and their own investments.
As Alan Rusbridger, their editor-in-chief said: “What was a trickle is becoming a river and will, I suspect, become a flood.”
Let’s make sure The Guardian’s divestment commitment sends a strong signal to other foundations—as well as universities, cities, states, churches and any institution that holds money and is dedicated to the public good—to get on the right side of history too.
+35 # Barbara K 2015-04-04 13:08
That is great news. Time to stop making the oil barons wealthier and support solar and wind energy for the sake of the planet, and us. Thank you “The Guardian”.
+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2015-04-04 18:00
Hydrogen? By product of combustion – water!
+22 # Corvette-Bob 2015-04-04 15:13
Fossil fuel is in a death spiral, the only question is whether or not it will take us with it.
-13 # brycenuc 2015-04-04 15:44
Divestment won’t phase the fossil fuel industry. They are well aware that global economy depends on it.
+12 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:50
Just because the fossil fuel is dominant now, does not mean that it cannot be replaced with a better source of energy. Wars have been fought to have the oil. It is time for the world to turn away from dependence on fossil fuels. We can dig and frack until it all runs out. The sun is there for everyone and will be always.
+3 # seeuingoa 2015-04-04 16:26
thank you for always stating the obvious.
+8 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:41
Thank you Guardian! It takes a few to start the ball rolling. The Green Way is the right way to go to save our planet and to stop the oil barons from their pursuit of their rule over the earth from dependence on oil. There will be plenty of job growth from energy from the sun because of needing solar power panels and the expertise to develop solar power plants to get it to the people. Thomas Edison knew about the power of solar energy and wanted to see it developed in his time. Power from the sun and water will be here for us as long as the earth exists, not so for fossil fuels. Go Green!
+3 # rhgreen 2015-04-04 19:31
That’s great news, but pardon me from being a bit cynical and pointing out that with the fall in oil prices it’s a good time to be doing it out of self-interest, anyway.
+3 # Eliza D 2015-04-04 20:31
Mr. McKibben is a real hero of the grassroots environmental movement. He has few politicians with any power on his or our side. Now is the time for us to support Green and Third parties and turn around this do-nothing, stuck-in-the-tw entieth century government of ours. If Costa Rica could run their electric grid on renewable energy since the new year, the US could make a good run at attaining 50% renewables in two years. The folks who are sick and having their farms torn up by fracking are about as happy about that “clean energy” as the families of the dozens killed in the NYC gas explosion this past week.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
1 For 7 Billion campaign launched to reform the selection process for the next UN Secretary-General
The selection of the new Secretary-General in 2016 will be one of the most important decisions the General Assembly will make in the next ten years. The new Secretary-General will have to address a world confronted with increasingly dangerous civil wars, humanitarian and environmental disasters, terrorism, regressive development, economic and financial turmoil, and inequality. The need for global leadership and international cooperation is greater than ever. It is crucial that the best and most highly qualified candidate is selected to become UN Secretary-General.
In the last twenty years, many international organizations, including the UN, have made major improvements and reforms in procedural mechanisms to enhance the transparency and accountability of high-level appointments. It is imperative that the selection process for the next UN Secretary-General is changed to meet the higher standards that the UN General Assembly, UN experts and civil society have persistently called for. A more open and inclusive selection process engaging all UN Member States will also help to revitalize the UN and enhance its global authority.
A group of civil society organizations strongly committed to upholding the UN Charter and its values has agreed on a set of principles and made proposals that form the basis for urgent and credible reform. The proposals are realistic and do not require an amendment of the UN Charter. Many of them have already been endorsed by a majority of UN Member States. The “1 For 7 Billion” Campaign was launched in November 2014 and has continued to garner attention from member states and global leaders. In February, The Elders published an op-ed in the New York Times on “Four Ideas for a Stronger UN, including a more open selection process for the Secretary-General. In a General Assembly debate on 3 March 2015, many states also expressed support for the idea to find a better way to select the next UN leader.
Learn more at the 1 For 7 Billion Campaign website www.UNelections.org
UN High Representative on Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, Leaving UN in Political Shuffle (via PassBlue)
11 March 2015
On 24 March, Angela Kane, current UN High Representative on Disarmament Affairs, announced her resignation. There was no official reason given for her departure, but prior to the announcement, reports had been circulating that Kane was being moved from her position to accommodate an aide to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Kim Won-soo, who will be out of a job when Ban’s second term ends in 2016. In an official statement released on 24 March, Ban announced that Mr. Kim will in fact be succeeding Ms. Kane in the post.
Read more from PassBlue.
New Under-Secretary-General Appointed to Head the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
10 March 2015
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on 9 March that Stephen O’Brien (UK) will succeed Ms. Valerie Amos as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.
It is informally understood that the position, like certain other senior UN posts, is an entitlement of the permanent five members of the Security Council. In the case of OCHA, the UK’s prime minister would identify one of its nationals for appointment by the UN Secretary-General.
Read more from UNelections.org
Read the official UN press release here.
UN General Assembly decides to hold earlier elections for ECOSOC and the Security Council starting in 2016
18 September 2014
With the adoption of Resolution 68/307 (A/RES/68/307) the General Assembly has decided to hold elections for the Economic and Social Council and Security Council six months before the new states will take up their positions. Historically the elections have been held in October each year, giving the newly-elected states only 2 months before they begin their terms which many have felt is too short a time to fully prepare.
The resolution states that the elections are to be held “about six months before the elected members assume their responsibilities,” and it is expected that the voting will take place around June, beginning at the 70th session of the GA (2016).
27 April 2015: Thematic debate in the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly on the role and appointment of the Secretary-General and other executive heads
15 September 2015: 70th session of the UN General Assembly
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Posted in Archives, Real World's News, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The Kremlin Pulls on Georgia
It’s time for the West to stop taking Tbilisi for granted.
By Michael Cecire
Foreign Policy Magazine, March 9, 2015
As Russian forces consolidate their gains in Ukraine over the flat protests of Western leaders, the specter of Russian revanchism is keeping much of Eastern Europe on edge. But lumbering tanks and legions of insta-separatists aren’t the only concern. Ukraine isn’t Russia’s only target.
Perhaps most alarming are the warning signs going off in Georgia, a steadfast Euro-Atlantic partner where a pro-Western political consensus has long been a foreign-policy calling card. A long-standing opponent of Russian military adventurism, Georgia sought escape velocity from Russian regional dominance by courting membership in Euro-Atlantic structures and earned a reputation as an enthusiastic and credible Western partner. But
Western quiescence in the face of Russian territorial aggression is starting to have an effect.
Western quiescence in the face of Russian territorial aggression is starting to have an effect. After decades of acrimony in which Georgians have watched Russian proxies occupy 20 percent of their territory and ethnically cleanse some 300,000 of their compatriots, certain groups are starting to ask if maintaining close ties to the West is worth all the loss. Increasingly, Georgians are beginning to think that it isn’t.
The groups spearheading Russian influence operations in Georgia fly beneath the international radar under the cloak of local-language media and the oft-repeated surety of pro-Western sentiment. But they can be seen protesting in Tbilisi streets, preaching in Georgian churches, and holding improbably well-funded campaign rallies ahead of elections. The evidence shows that Russian influence in Georgia is growing stronger. (In the photo, a Stalin impersonator poses at a memorial service for the Soviet dictator in his Georgian hometown of Gori.)
But at Washington roundtables and in private conversations, Western officials and experts tend to downplay the possibility of Russian-exported propaganda taking root in Georgia. The root of this complacency is tied to regular polling from the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) that has consistently showed public support for Euro-Atlantic integration at between 60 and 70 percent. Successive governments have relied on this popular approval to justify their Western-facing foreign-policy agendas.
So support for Euro-Atlantic integration is broad. But is it deep? Those who have spent time with ordinary Georgians say the reality, as is often the case, is far more complex.
There, in a scene in the popular Georgian soap opera Chemi Tsolis Dakalebi (My Wife’s Best Friends), revelers at a wedding reception are interrupted by an announcement that Georgia has just been awarded a long-coveted “MAP” (membership action plan), a prelude to NATO membership. The announcement shocks the crowd into a stunned silence, which then gives way to raucous cheers. One character, while clapping and celebrating along with the others, turns to another partygoer and asks: “What’s a MAP?”
While the scene colorfully illuminates NATO’s outsized social, and even civilizational, pull among Georgians, it also suggests a harsher truth: that Georgian society’s Western moorings may be more emotive than well-informed. The headline numbers from public opinion polls don’t tell the whole story. Look deeper into the data, and the picture is much more worrisome.
According to an NDI poll last August, integration with the West was at best a tertiary issue for Georgians. Instead, “kitchen table” issues dominated respondents’ concerns, with worries about jobs (63 percent) and poverty (32 percent) eclipsing other issues. NATO and EU integration came in far behind at 10th and 17th, respectively. And of 21 issues polled, Georgians picked NATO and EU membership as the top issues the government spent too much time discussing.
But most concerning, buried deep in the survey results, were signs of growing support for joining the Eurasian Union, a Moscow-led EU “alternative.” A full 20 percent favored the idea of Georgian membership. This percentage has risen steadily from 11 percent in late 2013 to 16 percent in mid-2014. Who are these Georgians who would surrender their country’s sovereignty to the same power that keeps a steely grip on Georgian territory and carves other neighboring states with impunity?
Part of the answer can be found in a budding segment of the nongovernmental sector, consisting of innocuously named pro-Russian groups like the “Eurasian Institute,” “Eurasian Choice,” and “The Earth Is Our Home.” Many of these organizations pop in and out of existence as needed — the “Peace Committee of Georgia” one week, something else the next — but they are often tied to the same group of pro-Russian ideologues and policy entrepreneurs who make regular pilgrimages to Moscow and, according to Georgian officials in the ruling party and the opposition, almost certainly receive Kremlin funding. Their common message isn’t high-church Russian apologia or Soviet nostalgia, but rather “Eurasianism” and “Orthodox civilization” — Kremlin shorthand for Putinism. Appeals to Georgian social conservatism, economic vulnerability, and lingering anger over past government abuses are winning converts within a population increasingly impatient with Georgia’s unrequited love affair with the West.
In mid-2014, Eurasianist groups made headlines for their raucous opposition to an anti-discrimination bill making its way through the Georgian parliament. Their opposition centered on language in the bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which opponents claimed was tantamount to promoting non-heterosexual lifestyles. But they didn’t come to the protests alone — accompanying the pro-Russian activists were unmistakably garbed clerics from the Georgian Orthodox Church.
The church, too, was nonplussed over the anti-discrimination bill and called for language protecting sexual minorities to be ejected. One of the oldest existing Christian churches in the world, the Georgian Orthodox Church is both a touchstone for Georgian nationalism and reliably polls as the most trusted institution in the country. But the church’s common cause with the Eurasianists was not limited to tactical alliances over anti-gay rhetoric. Although nominally in favor of Georgian membership in the European Union, influential factions within the Orthodox hierarchy openly stoke religious nationalism and express admiration for Russia.
Today, church representatives are increasingly seen as a vanguard for reactionary activity. In mid-2013, clergy members were on the front lines of a horrifying anti-gay pogrom in central Tbilisi. Church officials have justified protests against and attacks on Georgian Muslims. And church leaders have called the West “worse than Russia,” sometimes describing the 2008 Russian invasion as a kind of heavenly intervention against Western integration. Such language is echoed by Georgia’s Eurasianist NGOs.
The growing profile of pro-Russian organizations and the sharpening anti-Western stance of the church is converging with a third leg in an emerging pro-Russian triad: the revitalization of anti-Western political parties.
Since the 2012 change in power, pro-Russian politicians have risen from the darkest margins of Georgian political life into an increasingly viable political force.
Since the 2012 change in power, pro-Russian politicians have risen from the darkest margins of Georgian political life into an increasingly viable political force.
Onetime pro-Western advocate turned pro-Russian political agitator Nino Burjanadze has fashioned a political coalition aimed squarely at breaking Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic consensus. In presidential and local elections in 2013 and 2014, respectively, Burjanadze managed to get about 10 percent of the vote, armed with Eurasianist rhetoric and fueled by massive influxes of what was likely Russian money. And the rapidly growing Alliance of Patriots — a populist party with anti-Western leanings, which recently held a major rally in Tbilisi — won almost 5 percent in June 2014. If these numbers hold, parliamentary elections in 2016 could very well yield a very differently oriented Georgian government. A 15 percent result would be more than enough to send pro-Russian deputies into parliament in force, shattering cross-partisan foreign-policy unity and potentially playing kingmakers in coalition talks.
Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s former defense minister, has Russia on his mind. “There are very active pro-Russia groups and thousands of protesters who are against Western integration,” he told me recently, referring to the Alliance of Patriots rally. He expressed worry that the current government is downplaying a growing Russian threat. With his own Free Democrats now part of the parliamentary opposition, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition’s ranks of solidly pro-Western parties has noticeably thinned, and the leverage of socially conservative, protectionist factions within the coalition has increased.
But this is probably only the beginning. If trends hold, Georgia’s foreign-policy consensus — long taken for granted in the West — could begin to unravel in earnest. Although Georgian Dream, to its credit, has managed to skate the knife’s edge between geopolitical pragmatism and Euro-Atlantic enthusiasm, it is increasingly losing popularity among once-hopeful voters. As things stand, parliament in 2016 looks like it will be very different from today’s parliament. The pro-Western opposition United National Movement will likely see its 51 seats slashed by half or more. In its place is likely to be a collection of openly anti-Western deputies from Burjanadze’s coalition and the Alliance of Patriots. If it stays together, Georgian Dream may well remain the largest parliamentary bloc, but the introduction of large anti-Western groupings into parliament could compel it to dilute, or even abandon, its pro-Western policies out of political necessity.
This trajectory ought to be a cause for deep concern. Even a Georgia that tried to split its orientation between the West and Moscow would likely sink into the quicksand of Russian dominance, as have each of the other paragons of this strategy — Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. This result would mean the consolidation of Russian geostrategic supremacy over the Caucasus and, with it, a complete Russian monopoly over trans-Eurasian energy and trade flows.
There are ways the West could throw a much-needed lifeline to Georgian liberals.
There are ways the West could throw a much-needed lifeline to Georgian liberals. While the association agreement with the European Union signed last June is surely a welcome symbol, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area has great future potential, the real prize for most ordinary Georgians is the prospect of visa-free travel to the EU. If this is introduced this year, as widely hoped, this could be a real boon for Western credibility. And if not outright NATO membership, other strong gestures, such as U.S. major non-NATO ally status, would be a relatively painless upgrade that would enshrine what is essentially the status quo while recognizing Georgia’s long-outsized dedication and contributions to the Euro-Atlantic space.
What is clear is that the days of taking Georgia’s pro-Western consensus for granted are quickly coming to a close. Russian influence is resurgent across its periphery, from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus to Central Asia, and Georgia remains a long-coveted prize. It may have taken successive military interventions, information warfare, and influence operations, but Moscow looks to be turning a corner in its bid to regain Georgia — both by hook and by crook.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Naomi Klein: ‘The Economic System We Have Created Also Created Global Warming.”
Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel, writes: “Can we still stop global warming?” – “Only if we radically change our capitalist system” – argues author Naomi Klein.
By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel
28 February 2015
PIEGEL: Ms. Klein, why aren’t people able to stop climate change?
Klein: Bad luck. Bad timing. Many unfortunate coincidences.
SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?
Klein: The worst possible moment. The connection between greenhouse gases and global warming has been a mainstream political issue for humanity since 1988. It was precisely the time that the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” the victory of Western capitalism. Canada and the US signed the first free-trade agreement, which became the prototype for the rest of the world.
SPIEGEL: So you’re saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?
Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.
SPIEGEL: You’re an activist, and you’ve blamed capitalism for all kinds of things over the years. Now you’re blaming it for climate change too?
Klein: That’s no reason for irony. The numbers tell the story. During the 1990s, emissions went up by 1 percent per year. Starting in 2000, they started to go up by an average of 3.4 percent. The American Dream was exported globally and consumer goods that we thought of as essential to meet our needs expanded rapidly. We started seeing ourselves exclusively as consumers. When shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy.
SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?
Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we’re out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don’t act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.
SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to another question: Are you not misappropriating the issue of climate change for use in your critique of capitalism?
Klein: No. The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. I didn’t make this up. The system is broken, income inequality is too great and the lack of restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.
SPIEGEL: Your son Toma is two-and-a-half years old. What kind of world will he be living in when he graduates from high school in 2030?
Klein: That is what is being decided right now. I see signs that it could be a radically different world from the one we have today — and that change could either be quite positive or extremely negative. In any case, it’s already certain that it will at least in part be a worse world. We’re going to experience global warming and far more natural disasters, that much is certain. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. We also have time to change our economic system so that it does not become more brutal and merciless as it deals with climate change.
SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?
Klein: We have to make some decisions now about what values are important to us and how we really want to live. And of course it makes a difference if temperatures only rise by 2 degrees or if they rise by 4 or 5 degrees or more. It’s still possible for us humans to make the right decisions.
SPIEGEL: Twenty-six years have passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988. We have known at least since then that CO2 emissions from the burning of oil and coal is responsible for climate change. Yet little has been done to address the problem. Haven’t we already failed?
Klein: I view the situation differently given the enormous price we will have to pay. As long as we have the slightest chance of success or to minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.
SPIEGEL: Several years ago, the international community set a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Do you still consider that to be achievable?
Klein: Well, it’s still a physical possibility. We would have to immediately reduce global emissions by 6 percent a year. The wealthier countries would have to carry a greater burden, meaning the United States and Europe would have to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Immediately. It’s not impossible. It is just profoundly politically unrealistic under our current system.
SPIEGEL: You are saying our societies aren’t capable of doing so?
Klein: Yes. We need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.
SPIEGEL: Is a society focused on economic growth at all capable of fighting climate change successfully?
Klein: No. An economic model based on indiscriminate growth inevitably leads to greater consumption and to greater CO2 emissions. There can and must be growth in the future in many low carbon parts of the economy: in green technologies, in public transportation, in all the care-giving professions, in the arts and of course in education. Right now, the core of our gross domestic product is comprised of just consumption, imports and exports. We need to make cuts there. Anything else would be self-deception.
SPIEGEL: The International Monetary Fund makes the opposite claim. It says that economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive.
Klein: They’re not looking at the same numbers as I am. The first problem is that at all these climate conferences, everyone acts as if we will arrive at our goal through self-commitments and voluntary obligations. No one tells the oil companies that, in the end, they are really going to have to give up. The second problem is that these oil companies are going to fight like hell to protect what they don’t want to lose.
SPIEGEL: You seriously want to eliminate the free market in order to save the climate?
Klein: I am not talking about eliminating markets, but we need much more strategy, steering and planning and a very different balance. The system in which we live is overly obsessed with growth — it’s one that sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth that are clearly not good. It’s clear to me that my position is in direct conflict with neo-liberalism. Is it true that in Germany, although you have accelerated the shift to renewables, coal consumption is actually increasing?
SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.
Klein: To me that is an expression of this reluctance to decide on what is necessary. Germany is not going to meet its emissions targets in the coming years either.
SPIEGEL: Is the Obama presidency the worst thing that could have happened to the climate?
Klein: In a way. Not because Obama is worse than a Republican. He’s not. But because these eight years were the biggest wasted opportunity of our lives. The right factors came together in a truly historic convergence: awareness, urgency, the mood, his political majority, the failure of the Big Three US automakers and even the possibility of addressing the failed unregulated financial world and climate change at the same time. But when he came to office, he didn’t have the courage to do it. We will not win this battle unless we are willing to talk about why Obama viewed the fact that he had control over the banks and auto companies as more of a burden than as an opportunity. He was a prisoner of the system. He didn’t want to change it.
SPIEGEL: The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.
Klein: Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.
SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?
Klein: Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.
SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.
Klein: Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.
SPIEGEL: If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.
Klein: Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?
SPIEGEL: You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?
Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.
SPIEGEL: You don’t appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.
Klein: Because the system can’t think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example …
SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …
Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system’s self-preservation capacity isn’t that great.
SPIEGEL: A particularly unsettling chapter in your book is about Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group.
Klein: Yes. I wouldn’t have expected it.
SPIEGEL: Branson has sought to portray himself as a man who wants to save the climate. It all started after an encounter with Al Gore.
Klein: And in 2006, he pledged at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that he would invest $3 billion in research into green technologies. At the time, I thought it was truly a sensational contribution. I didn’t think, oh, you cynical bastard.
SPIEGEL: But Branson was really just staging it and only a fraction of that money was ever spent.
Klein: He may well have been sincere at the time, but yes, only a fraction was spent.
SPIEGEL: Since 2006, Branson has added 160 new airplanes to his numerous airlines and increased his emissions by 40 percent.
SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?
Klein: That we need to question the symbolism and gestures made by Hollywood stars and the super rich. We cannot confuse them with a scientifically sound plan to reduce emissions.
SPIEGEL: In America and Australia, a lot of money is spent on efforts to deny climate change. Why?
Klein: It’s different from Europe. It’s an anger that is similar to that held by those who oppose abortion and gun control. It’s not only that they are protecting a way of life they don’t want to change. It’s that they understand that climate change challenges their core anti-government, free-market belief system. So they have to deny it to protect their very identity. That’s why there’s this intensity gap: Liberals want to take a little bit of action on climate protection. But at the same time, these liberals also have a number of other issues that are higher on their agenda. But we have to understand that the hardcore conservative climate change deniers will do everything in their power to prevent action.
SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?
Klein: With all of that, of course.
SPIEGEL: Does that explain why you are connecting all of these issues — the environment, equity, public health and labor issues — that are popular on the left? Is it out of purely strategic considerations?
Klein: The issues are connected, and we also need to connect them in the debate. There is only one way that you can win a battle against a small group of people who stand to lose a lot: You need to start a mass movement that includes all the people who have a lot to gain. The deniers can only be defeated if you are just as passionate as them, but also when you are superior in numbers. Because the truth is that they really are very few.
SPIEGEL: Why don’t you believe that technology has the potential to save us?
Klein: There has been tremendous progress in the storage of renewable energies, for instance, and in solar efficiency. But climate change? I, in any case, don’t have enough faith to say, “We’ll come up with some invention at some point, so let’s just drop all other efforts.” That would be insane.
SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.
Klein: And I find their technology fetish naïve. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some really big failures where some of the smartest guys in the room screwed up on a massive scale, be it with the derivatives that triggered the financial crisis or the oil catastrophe off the coast of New Orleans. Mostly, we as people break things and we don’t know how to fix them afterwards. Right now, it’s our planet that we’re breaking.
SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that the climate crisis is a gender issue.
Klein: Why would you say that?
SPIEGEL: Bill Gates says we need to keep moving forward and come up with new inventions to get the problem, and ultimately our complicated Earth, under control. You on the other hand are saying: Stop, no, we have to adapt ourselves to this planet and become softer. The US oil companies are run by men. And you, as a critical woman, are described as hysterical. It’s not an absurd thought, is it?
Klein: No. The entire industrialization was about power or whether it would be man or nature that would dominate Earth. It is difficult for some men to admit that we don’t have everything under control; that we have amassed all this CO2 over the centuries and that Earth is now telling us: Well, you’re just a guest in my house.
SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?
Klein: That’s too cheesy. But you’re still right. The oil industry is a male-dominated world, a lot like high finance. It’s very macho. The American and Australian idea of “discovering” an endless country and that endless resources can be extracted is a narrative of domination, one that traditionally casts nature as a weak, prone woman. And the idea of being in a relationship of interdependence with the rest of the natural world was seen as weak. That’s why it is doubly difficult for alpha men to concede that they have been wrong.
SPIEGEL: There’s one issue in the book that you seem to steer clear of. Although you revile the companies, you never say that your readers, who are customers of these companies, are also culpable. You also remain silent about the price that individual readers will have to pay for climate protection.
Klein: Oh, I think that most people would be happy to pay for it. They know that climate protection requires reasonable behavior: less driving, less flying and less consumption. They would be happy to use renewable energies if they were offered them.
SPIEGEL: But the idea isn’t big enough, right?
Klein: (laughs) Exactly. The green movement spent decades educating people that they should compost their garbage, that they should recycle and that they should ride their bikes. But look at what has happened to the climate during these decades.
SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?
Klein: Not enough. I bike, I use transit, I try to give speeches by Skype, I share a hybrid car and I cut my flying to about one-tenth of what it was before I started this project. My sin is taking taxis, and since the book came out, I’ve been flying too much. But I also don’t think that only people who are perfectly green and live CO2-free should be allowed to talk about this issue. If that were the case, then nobody would be able to say anything at all.
SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, we thank you for this interview.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
February 17, 2015
Tesla’s Disruptive New Plan to Power Your Home
by Dr. Kent Moors
From a surprising source – Dr. Kent Moors’ Oil & Energy Investor’s site we picked up the following:
February 17, 2015 – but we picked this up only February 25th because Google deemed the posting a “Promotion rather then “Primar
TESLA’s DISRUPTIVE NEW PLAN TO POWER YOUR HOME.
by Dr. Kent Moors
Dear Oil & Energy Investor,
Two eye-opening announcements prove that renewable energy is no longer at the mercy of the price of oil.
Both involve solar power, which I find increasingly attractive in today’s markets.
The first is a major test of a joint project between Tesla Motors Inc. (NasdaqGS: TSLA) and SolarCity Corp. (NasdaqGS: SCTY) involving 500 California homes.
Sources have told me they expect this test to be the final “proof of concept,” followed by wider applications in both residential and commercial uses.
The lynchpin between the two is a family connection.
Tesla’s CEO is Elon Musk, one of the most innovative entrepreneurs of our time, while his cousin Lyndon Rive is the CEO of SolarCity. Musk is also SolarCity’s biggest shareholder.
Now the two are coming together in hopes of solving the industry’s biggest roadblock…
This was followed by:
Solar Power Comes of Age
Tesla, of course, needs very little introduction. The California-based company has a very visible position in cutting-edge electric cars.
SolarCity, on the other hand, is the market leader in residential solar power installations. In the third quarter of 2014, SolarCity led the pack in this portion of the business by grabbing 39% of the market. Meanwhile, SolarCity’s next-closest competitor came in at 16%.
The two market leaders are now combining some of their operations in a very serious attempt to bring solar power into more consumer areas. In short, SolarCity is working with Tesla to make rooftop panels that are fitted with Tesla batteries.
Now a major test is underway in California that may usher in a new age of residential solar battery use.
The California test will utilize a solar battery with the ability to power a home for two days in the event of a blackout. In everyday use, the unit is expected to allow homeowners to store solar-generated power for use during high-cost periods, giving them the flexibility to use the conventional grid for cheaper, off-peak electricity.
Storing generated power for use at other times – in short, perfecting a new line of cost-effective batteries – has been the industry’s single biggest hurdle.
So the California residential test may well usher in a whole new ballgame. Considering the batteries from the Tesla-SolarCity venture (involving more than the California test) utilize a new generation of silicon batteries, rather than relying on rare earth metals or lithium, is also a plus. This type of approach is already well advanced, and is based on considerable familiarity and history.
It also doesn’t hurt that Tesla is building the biggest battery factory on the planet right now. Dubbed the “Gigafactory,” the plant is expected to have a dramatic effect on the energy storage market, helping to bring battery costs down by as much as half by 2020.
So while the initial price of these installations may come in high, as with any generation-changing new technology, the cost will eventually come down. What’s more, there may be some credits and other inducements provided by the companies to stimulate usage.
This development, combined with the recent decisions by Apple Inc. (NasdaqGS: AAPL) to power its new Pentagon-like headquarters via solar and Google Inc. (NasdaqGS: GOOG) opting for wind power for its San Francisco Bay Area base, show that renewables are now moving into all aspects of electricity end use here in the States.
and the SECOND BIG NEWS OF THE INTRODUCTORY PIECE:
India Breaks Ground on the World’s Largest Solar Plant
The second major development for renewables is unfolding halfway around the world.
India has announced a major push to provide 15% of its electricity needs from renewables with an initial push into solar power, which is unfolding right now. It’s the first high-profile effort to provide concrete plans for a major Asian advance into solar power distribution.
The Times of India reported yesterday that the construction of the world’s largest solar power plant has begun in the central Indian Rewa district, within the state of Madhya Pradesh. The plant, a joint venture between state-run PSU Urja Vikas Nigam and the Solar Energy Corp. of India, will provide 750 megawatt of electricity. Once online, the plant will be 36% bigger than the largest plant currently in operation.
The current world leader is the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight Solar Farm, which just opened in California’s Mojave Desert. Situated on 3,800 acres near Joshua Tree National Park, the plant produces enough energy to power 160,000 homes.
But the Indian push into solar power hardly ends there. The government has plans for two dozen solar farms strategically placed throughout the country.
In all, the State Bank of India has committed resources for the development of 15 gigawatt of solar power by 2020. The objective is to provide a full 15% of the nation’s energy needs from renewable sources within five years.
To be sure, there are some doubts that New Delhi can pull this off. For one thing, the price tag is very debatable. For another, the national electricity distribution grid is in a sorry state, and would require significant, pricey, and (at the moment) an unspecified amount of investment to be able to shoulder the anticipated new power load.
Still, with the Chinese committed to a similar 15 gigawatt goal from solar by 2020, Germany’s decision to end its reliance on nuclear power, and the continued growth pattern in the U.S., one conclusion is already abundantly clear.
The future of solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and other renewables is longer dependent on the price of crude.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue of Vienna is lodged in what was the private villa of the Bunderskanzler of Austria who was the pragmatic – conscious-based father of the new Austria – who, while holding different and ascending post WWII positions – managed the establishment of the Second Austrian Republic and its becoming a neutral State in the Soviet and the West stand-off.
In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state, ending the Soviet, French, British, and US occupation zones. In the same year, the Austrian Parliament formulated the Declaration of Neutrality which declared that the Second Austrian Republic would become permanently neutral. Bruno Kreisky (22 January 1911 – 29 July 1990) was Kanzler 1970 till 1983, but in 1951, when he returned to Vienna, Federal President Theodor Körner (1951-1957) appointed him Assistant Chief of Staff and political adviser – then in 1953 he was appointed Undersecretary in the Foreign Affairs Department of the Austrian Chancellery. In this position he took part in negotiating the 1955 Austrian State Treaty, which ended the four-power occupation of Austria and restored Austria’s independence by declaring neutrality. It is said that he was the brain behind this very important political maneuvering which showed his strength of purpose.
While Austrian Chancellor, Mr. Kreisky tried to build his country’s position as the neutral go between the two blocs – East and West – during the Cold War. He also took special interest in the Middle East – and this brings us to the topic we tackle in this posting.
Upon the prodding of Israeli maverick Uri Avnery, Mr. Kreisky became instrumental in what was said – an effort to make Yassir Arafat, the head of the PLO – the Palestinian Liberation Movement – “Salon Clean” which meant – honorably acceptable in the capitals of the West.
The idea here was that if there was to be peace in the Middle East it will come through negotiations between the two local warring sides – so the Palestinians must be helped to build a world-recognized leadership. We know how this led to the principle of a TWO-STATES solution, and we know today that it seems – honesty and pragmatism – tell us that possibility was lost because the Oslo agreements were not followed to fruition. Instead a closely intermingled situation came about and with every day that passes the return to the Oslo road becomes more difficult.
The Kreisky Forum that was formed by Chancellor Vranitzky one year after Bruno Kreisky’s death – with Karl Kahane – an industrialist and Kreisky friend – and Kreisky’s son Peter – on board and the Karl Kahane Family Foundation, with the City of Vienna, the Austrian Government, and the Austrian National Bank, as main funders, is led by a Board of Directors chaired now by Rudolf Scholten, former Federal Minister of Education, Science and the Arts, Member of the Board of Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG. The former Austrian Ambassador to the US, Mrs. Eva Novotny is Secretary and Ms. Patricia Kahane Deputy Secretary.
The Executive power is as always in the hands of the Secretary General which is since 2005 Gertraud Auer Borea d’Olmo. The devoted personal secretary to Mr. Bruno Kreisky, Margit Schmidt, currently Treasurer of the Keisky Foundation, was Secretary General of the Kreisky Forum from 1991 – 2004.
And to the point – Gertaud Auer is all set to continue the legacy left by Bruno Kreisky – the legacy of a free thinker/pragmatist who is ready to take on the potentialities of the moment in order to reach out to long-term goals. As an aside, I feel compelled to mention that I found that on the basis of an interview here in Vienna, a Greek paper knew to say that Gertraud Auer of the Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue said that the new Greek head of Government – Mr. Alexis Tsipras – whom she knows as she had him over to Vienna to speak at the Forum – has the potential to be the Bruno Kreisky of Greece.
In the matter of our topic here – the Middle East – looking through the list of advisers to the Kreisky Forum Board I found – Galia Golan, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Rashid Khalidi, University of Chicago, Head of the Center for International Studies – both very capable people that could help Ms. Auer in trying to be ahead of the pack of Middle East thinkers.
And that is our subject today.
Ms. Auer initiated a two year study to Rethink the Middle East built around a Two-States Solution of the Kreisky days.
She managed to get a terrific team together and eventually get also Mr. Hannes Swoboda, a retired High Ranking Austrian Member of the European Parliament (1996-2014) – Head of the Social Democrat faction of the Parliament – to be accurate – the S&D Group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats of the European Parliament.
Eventually the group found in Mr. Bashir Bashir, an Israeli Arab intellectual researcher and lecturer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the editor for its project and the resulted product, recently released, is titled: “RETHINKING THE POLITICS OF ISRAEL/PALESTINE: Partition and its Alternatives.”
The result does not just move from a Two-States Solution to a One-State Solution – but in effect to a Human Rights for All Solution that does not start from numbering States – the solution is within what may look like a one State – but besides the equal rights for all frame, it does allow for Multi-Nationalism and diversity rights for all people and communities as well.
In effect – this is the recognition of the intertwined existence within the territory of Israel and the area originally intended for a Palestinian State linked to Israel by a joint economy. Mr. Avraham Burg, a member of Ms. Auer’s team – former speaker of the Knesset – the Israeli Parliament – put it very clearly when he said this week in Vienna that he does not give up his Zionism ideals of having the Jews live on the land of their forefathers in a situation that allows full equality for all its inhabitants – as it was the ideal of the founding fathers of the State – he believes that being a moral Jew is what Judaism demands – so he wants to see change in order to fulfill that calling without the need to oppress another people. Mr. Burg’s background is amazing in itself, as he grew up in a home where his father – Mr. Joseph Burg – was the head of National Religious Jewry and then – in Palestine – a partner of Ben Gurion’s Socialists in the creation of the State of Israel.
Mr. Swoboda said that as eventually the European Union will have to evolve to become a one state with a diversified Multi-National reality, this could become the working example that the new Israel/Palestine or Palestine/Israel will emulate.
I attended several book-presentation events for this Kreisky Forum study these last two weeks, at the Kreisky Forum, and at the Diplomatic Academy. Then I was informed that the show moved to Brussels where the book was presented to many members of the European Parliament and Civil Society – and yesterday – back here in Vienna – at the local venue of the European Union.
At all events the rooms were full and very interesting discussions followed. There were hardly any one-sided opponents.
The Event in Vienna, February 16th 2015, at the House of the European Union Representation in Vienna, included a Roundtable Debate – “TOWARDS A EUROPEAN PEACE INITIATIVE” – chaired and moderated by Ms. Auer with some of the main members of her team on board, and also new faces. Those of the book were besides Mr. Avraham Burg and editor Bashir Bashir, also Ms. Inbal Arnon, associate professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Mr. Noam Sheizaf, a Tel Aviv based journalist who also runs a critical website - 972mag.com The new face is Mr. Muhammed Jabali, a young Israeli Arab from Taybeh who coordinates Art/Activist projects, occasional DJ, Adjunct lecturer at Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem, content editor at batuta.com (an Arabic language travel website), occasional project editor like when Coordinator of TheJaffaProject – an Aoutobiography of a City, by the Ayam association or when explaining that the Arab gay people of Israel did not participate in Pride Day because they did not want the foreign participants to think that being liberal when it comes to the issue of homosexuality there is also acceptance of human rights to the Arab minority.
Mr. Muhammad Jabali’s topic at the panel was: “From containment of imbalanced ethnic politics to co-resistance against it.”
In his presentation he stressed that 93% of the land in Israel is under State control and it serves projects only for 80% of its citizens. Also, when you legitimize a democratic policy Palestinians should be able to marry those from outside the borders and bring them to Israel – like the Jewish citizens are allowed to do.
I enlarged here on Jabali’s participation because I had an extensive chat with him after the meeting and explained to him that personally I believe that Israel itself, in its present structure, with its 20% Arab population – the Israeli Arabs with voting rights and for a long time already with 10 to 12 elected Members of the Knesset, could be the first example of this ONE-STATE FOR ALL SOLUTION. I believe that it is in the hands of the Israeli-Palestinians to make their presence felt in Parliament – not as thorns in the thighs of the Jewish citizens – but as full rights citizens demanding their place within the constraints of existing laws. That this is possible was shown last year when the 12 members of Parliament from the three Arab lists helped elect Reuven Rivlin as President of Israel against the will of Prime Minister Netanyahu who favored someone else. Why it took 50 years for the Arab Members of the Knesset to exercise their voting rights in this most positive way is beyond my understanding. In effect – the Arab vote could help build a government and get to be Ministers as well – really they are the only ones to blame for not having done this – and the answer that the Arabs outside Israel would never have forgiven them the effort to doing something for themselves first – does not hold water in my way of thinking, and I am sure not in Mr. Swoboda’s hopes to see change and the start towards a real target of peace. Israel will have new elections on March 17, 2015 and the Arabs expect to win 15 seats out of the total of 120 seats. Why not ask for the Ministry of housing in exchange for helping the challenger gather the needed 61 members required minimum? That is what we call rEVOlution – the evolution that is a quiet revolution; the achievement of the Kreisky Forum Study goals in an orderly democratic way.
Just a few further notions from the February 16th event:
From the introduction by Mr. Gerald Klug, the current Federal Minister of Defense and Sport (lucky Austria that can have the possibility to combine with impunity these two posts) said that we should talk not just on territory but also on “When and Why.”
Mr. Hannes Swoboda asked – “Is it for Israel and Palestine?” and answered “It is for the people of the region.” The issue before thee World and specifically before Europe is thus not merely the continuation of past efforts but a step forward with forward looking concepts.
Editor Bashir Bashir stressed that the exercise is not just wishful thinking but that the facts on the ground call for a new paradigm – one that switches from National Rights to Human Rights. This calls for rethinking Jewish Nationalism and Palestinian Activism. He stressed that he takes his Israeli citizenship very seriously and he is a product of the Palestinian Naqba.
Both seemingly being the pillars of his position. The solution being for Palestinian Nationalism becoming part of a bi-National State with Equal Rights.
So, it seems that the Kreisky Forum effort, as managed by Gertraud Auer Borea, can indeed move from being an ideal – to practical reality – if the Israeli Arabs move to do what is indeed in their best interest – and achievable – because despite the many shades of black and grey – Israel is still the only area in the Middle East that has a minimum of democracy, and the only Arab State that can claim some democracy in its structure is the very remote Tunisia. All the rest of the Arab World has imploded or is on a path of implosion witnessing acts of inhumanity – not just political disagreements. Let me repeat therefore that word I brought forward earlier – rEVOlution – this is not a misspelling – but a conscious effort to create a new path and my hope that the Kreisky Forum could adopt this word. This new paradigm presented by the Kreisky Forum to the European Parliament has in it the potential of saving the Arab World from itself – by starting first with Israel saving itself from itself.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARCTIC – IS IT POSSIBLE?
Author : Kapil Narula
10 Feb 2015
The Arctic is a unique region which plays a very important role in the earth’s ecosystem. It regulates the earth’s climate, influences the ocean currents, has rich biodiversity and is home to a substantial indigenous population. Therefore, sustainability should be a prerequisite condition for development in the Arctic.
‘Sustainability’ is the ability of a system to continue a desired behaviour indefinitely. An example of such a sustainable system is tropical rain forests in which the inherent processes continue in a cyclic manner to support life. On the other hand, ‘development’ is the process of growth. When these two words are conjoined it implies ‘continuous growth’. Hence the word ‘Sustainable Development’ is actually an oxymoron because any kind of growth cannot be indefinite.
While ‘Sustainable Development’ is rightly understood as a multi-dimensional concept, having economic, environmental and social dimensions, an extended definition also includes inter and intra-generational equity as well as inter-species equity, as its fundamental principles. However, people often misunderstand it as simultaneous and continued growth in all three dimensions. This understanding is flawed as these dimensions have competing goals and therefore there has to be a trade-off between these goals. As an example, any kind of economic growth has negative environmental externalities and there may be accompanying social impacts which may lead to collapse of societies. Therefore sustainable development needs to be perceived in a way that explicitly conveys the core idea that the growth of the economy and the society is constrained by environmental limits.
If ‘Sustainable Development’ of the Arctic region is viewed from the above perspective, one is forced to define environmental limits prior to looking at economic opportunities in the region. Further, the impact of development in the region on culture, societies and the traditional way of living of the indigenous people should also be minimal. Hence it is important that any activities which are undertaken in the Arctic region should be carefully examined for the foreseeable impacts which they might have on the region as well as on the ecosystem of the earth.
Let us consider two major issues which are threatening the sustainability of the Arctic region: ‘resources’ and ‘routes’. The scramble between Arctic nations to control both these and the intent of extra regional powers to share the trickledown benefits, have resulted in countries engaging in active geopolitics on the Arctic. While some countries like India are keenly interested in science in order to increase their understanding of climate change, other countries such as South Korea are looking at the economic benefits which they can reap as fallout of increased shipping in the region.
Let’s talk about resources first. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the region contains 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 per cent of its oil. These valuable energy resources have been fossilised over millions of years. From the viewpoint of sustainability, the ‘strong sustainability’ condition defines that the ‘economic capital’ (produced capital such as infrastructure, knowledge etc.), and ‘natural capital’ (environmental assets such as fossil fuels, biodiversity and other ecosystem structures) are complimentary, but not interchangeable. This implies that natural capital needs to be preserved sufficiently, as it has to be passed to the next generation and cannot be replaced with economic capital. Hence the amount of fossil fuels and minerals which can be extracted from the Arctic region should be limited to the regeneration rates of these resources. Obviously, this would mean that only miniscule amounts of resources can be extracted and therefore the strong sustainability condition is difficult to meet, in the case of energy and mineral resources. An alternate interpretation for resources can be as follows: the non-renewable resources which are extracted should be replaced by an equivalent amount of substitutes for that resource. This interpretation can however serve as a prerequisite condition for resource extraction, if the Arctic has to be developed sustainably.
The strong sustainability condition is often diluted to a ‘weak sustainability’ condition which allows unconditional substitution between economic and natural capital. This implies that natural resources may be used as long as economic capital is increased. Proponents of this approach claim that the energy which is extracted now, can be used to increase economic capital, so that the total amount of capital for the next generation remains unchanged. However, most often this weak sustainability condition is also violated and the extracted resources are consumed by the existing generation without a thought for the future generations.
On the issue of new shipping routes, the strong sustainability condition in the Arctic region would be met as long as the rates of waste generation from shipping and related activities do not exceed the assimilative capacity of the Arctic eco-system. This condition therefore requires that while the shipping routes may be used, there should be stringent environmental regulations controlling the operation of shipping in the region. Notwithstanding the strict enforcement of rules, the environmental risks remains high due the uncertain nature of floating ice, harsh climatic condition, risk of human or technical failure and the fragile nature of the environment. An oil spill either from offshore drilling or accidents at sea, marine pollution due to leaks and untreated waste disposal at sea are other challenges, which will have an impact on the marine environment in the region. However, as long as the environmental impact on the ecosystem is within the acceptable limits, shipping in the region could be classified as sustainable. But the question is “Do we have enough know-how on the Arctic ecosystem to even attempt defining such limits?” Further, what is the guarantee that there would be no accidents such as those involving the drilling ships, ‘Noble Discoverer’ and the ‘Kulluk’, operated by Shell off the Alaskan coast in 2013 which led to suspension of further drilling in the region. The answers to these questions are not easy and hence prior to allowing navigation of ships through the ice floes infested waters, one must carefully examine the environmental risks which the region is exposed to, if unrestricted shipping is allowed.
It can, therefore, be concluded that there are many challenges to sustainable development of the Arctic region. However, such a possibility exists, provided stringent rules and regulations are followed for shipping and a limited amount of resource extraction is permitted in the region. How would this development unfold, is a question which none can predict, but one can only hope that the Arctic Council adopts some guidelines which imposes certain limits and restriction on shipping and resource exploration activities in the Arctic region.
(*The author is a Research Fellow at the National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Indian Navy or National Maritime Foundation. He can be reached at kapilnarula at yahoo.com)
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Friday, 13 February 2015
UN agrees draft text for Paris climate summit.
Work is continuing on draft text for a new climate change agreement by the end of the year Work is continuing on text aimed at a new climate change agreement by the end of the year
UN climate talks in Geneva have ended with agreement on a formal draft negotiating text for the summit in Paris in December.
The document, which runs to 86 pages, builds on negotiations in Peru last year.
The Swiss meeting set out to create a draft for consideration at the Paris talks. The aim was to have a new global climate agreement in place by the end of 2015.
The latest climate talks, which started on Sunday, and lasted 6 days, focussed on finalising a draft negotiating text for the Paris summit. This was the first formal gathering since the Lima climate summit in December.
“I am extremely encouraged by the constructive spirit and the speed at which negotiators have worked during the past week,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“We now have a formal negotiating text, which contains the views and concerns of all countries. The Lima Draft has now been transformed into the negotiating text and enjoys the full ownership of all countries,” she added.
Analysis by Helen Briggs, BBC environment correspondent:
The draft text was agreed before the end of the session, in a mood described as “the spirit of Lima”. But rather than being slimmed down, the document has more than doubled in size, to contain everything to be discussed in the run-up to Paris.
Delegates acknowledge that the hard work is still ahead, with the real conflicts to come when negotiators seek to “streamline” the text and narrow down the options for limiting a damaging rise in temperatures.
The key political test is the period from March to June, when individual countries announce their plans to reduce emissions.
At the next climate talks in June, real progress will have to be made to resolve issues such as financing the Paris agreement and ensuring that poorer countries get the support they need to adapt to impacts such as flooding.
Three special sessions have been added to this year’s schedule of climate meetings. They include talks about “intended nationally determined contributions”, the commitments to reduce emissions that are meant to pave the way towards a low-carbon future.
Governments are expected to submit their national plans by an informal deadline of the period from March to June.
China, the United States and the European Union have already given an indication of their plans.
The UN seeks to limit the increase of the average global surface temperature to no more than 2C (3.6F) compared with pre-industrial levels, to avoid “dangerous” climate change. But scientists warn the Earth is on track for double that target.
The World Meteorological Organization confirmed this month that 2014 had been the hottest year on record, part of a continuing trend. Fourteen out of the 15 hottest years have been this century.
The UNFCCC, based in Bonn, Germany, has 196 parties – including virtually all of the world’s nations – and grew from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for cutting greenhouse gases.
The next meeting will be held in Bonn in June.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 9th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
ISIL Oil Control and Financing
February 18, 2015, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
McGraw-Hill Building – 12th Floor
Two Penn Plaza
New York City, NY 10121
PLEASE NOTE OUR NEW VENUE: McGraw-Hill Building, Two Penn Plaza (on top of Penn Station), 12th Floor, New York, NY 10121
Please join the New York Energy Forum for a panel discussion on Wednesday, February 18th. Mr. Rick Westerdale will discuss a recent presentation by the U.S. Department of State on topic of oil control and financing by the Islamic rebel group in Iraq and Syria. Mr. Karwan Zebari, Director at the Kurdish Regional Government Mission in DC, will then provide additional insight on the political and security outlook as well as the energy implications in Iraq.
Richard (Rick) W. Westerdale II is Director of the Energy Resources Bureau’s Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy Office in the U.S. State Department. He leads and directs efforts to identify, analyze, and evaluate the strategic importance of policies in international energy affairs including governance, access to energy, use of renewables and low carbon technologies, and increasing access to conventional energy resources. He represents the Department in a variety of senior-level engagements and carries out official visits to advance international engagement, forge cooperation with partner-nations and establish agreements on a range of energy security policy initiatives. Prior to his current assignment in Washington, Mr. Westerdale was responsible for providing expert commercial & technical advice, guidance, and leadership in the oil and gas sector with a specialization in Energy at the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Karwan Zebari is currently the Director of Congressional & Academic Affairs at the Kurdistan Regional Government Representation in the United States, based in Washington, DC. Within his capacity Mr. Zebari works closely with Congress on all matters relating to Kurdistan Region of Iraq; strengthening the ties between the legislative body of the US government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Mr. Zebari oversees all academic research dealing with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq from any US-based academic institution. Mr. Zebari holds a Bachelor degree from the State University of New York Institute of Technology and a Master from Binghamton University. In 2006, he was awarded the New York State Technology Association Scholar of the year. He has worked for several Department of Defense Aerospace & Defense contractors. He is also the co-founder of the American Kurdish Council and was the President of the New York Chapter from 2009 till 2011 where he mobilized the upstate New York Kurdish communities to become active in the local, state, and national grassroots efforts. Mr. Zebari has appeared on many local, national, and international media outlets.
MODERATOR: David Knapp
David Knapp is President, Energy Forum Advisory Board and Chief Energy Economist and Senior Editor for Global Oil Market Analysis at Energy Intelligence Group in New York. He is Editor of EIG’s monthly Oil Market Intelligence. He has analyzed energy markets for 40 years in the international, government, business and financial sectors. Dr. Knapp holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
5:30 – 6:00 PM: Registration
6:00 – 7:30 PM: Presentation and Discussion
7:30 – 8:00 PM: Reception
$40.00 for General Admission
$10.00 for Academic/Military
$0.00 for Energy Forum Sponsors
$0.00 for Energy Forum Subscribers
Online registration is necessary in order to facilitate building security requirements.
PLEASE NOTE WE HAVE A NEW VENUE: McGraw-Hill Building, Two Penn Plaza (on top of Penn Station), 12th Floor, New York, NY 10121
We would be pleased to answer any questions you might have about The Energy Forum, Inc. or about this session.
Contact: Lila Noury
PLEASE NOTE WE HAVE A NEW VENUE: McGraw-Hill Building, Two Penn Plaza (on top of Penn Station), 12th Floor, New York, NY 10121
We would be pleased to answer any questions you might have about The Energy Forum, Inc. or about this session.
Contact: Lila Noury
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
How has the oil price drop affected the bioenergy industry? Read the results of the WBA survey.
From: Bharadwaj V Kummamuru bharadwaj.v.kummamuru at worldbioenergy….
World Bioenergy Association (WBA) would like to thank everyone for their voluntary participation in the survey on the oil price drop effect on the bioenergy industry.
We have received answers from 25 countries. The number of employees in the companies surveyed varied from 10 to more than 1 000. Respondents included pellet producers, biogas producer, and bioenergy equipment manufacturers etc.
In summary, the decline in oil prices from June 2014 to January 2015 has had a moderate to severe effect on 75% of the respondents while the rest were unaffected. The current situation benefits countries highly dependent on oil imports. However, bioenergy producers are struggling with lower investments, lower profit margins and less financial resources available for bioenergy development.
The complete summary is attached. For any comments on the survey, please email us at info at worldbioenergy.org
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Posted in Archives, Real World's News, Reporting from UNFCCC Meetings, Reporting from Washington DC
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Today In the U.S. – Claims Against Saudis Cast New Light on Secret Pages of 9/11 Report.
By CARL HULSE, The New York Times, February 4, 2015
Following up on last week’s news:
Moussaoui Calls Saudi Princes Patrons of Al Qaeda – February 3, 2015
Pre-9/11 Ties Haunt Saudis as New Accusations Surface – February. 4, 2015
the US is now all ears – will they get to know the true facts by being allowed to read the inquiry results?
President George W. Bush has ordered classified – that is top secrecy – on the behavior of the Saudi Monarchy and its Princes in the US – and even sprinted them out of reach at a time the airports were closed for everybody else. Is this not suspicious even more when we think how the House of Bush was involved in oil-business ties with the House of Saud?
WASHINGTON — A still-classified section of the investigation by congressional intelligence committees into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has taken on an almost mythic quality over the past 13 years — 28 pages that examine crucial support given the hijackers and that by all accounts implicate prominent Saudis in financing terrorism.
Now new claims by Zacarias Moussaoui, a convicted former member of Al Qaeda, that he had high-level contact with officials of the Saudi Arabian government in the prelude to Sept. 11 have brought renewed attention to the inquiry’s withheld findings, which lawmakers and relatives of those killed in the attacks have tried unsuccessfully to declassify.
“I think it is the right thing to do,” said Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts and an author of a bipartisan resolution encouraging President Obama to declassify the section. “Let’s put it out there.”
White House officials say the administration has undertaken a review on whether to release the pages but has no timetable for when they might be made public.
Mr. Lynch and his allies have been joined by former Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was a leader of the inquiry. He has called for the release of the report’s Part 4, which dealt with Saudi Arabia, since President George W. Bush ordered it classified when the rest of the report was released in December 2002.
Mr. Graham has repeatedly said it shows that Saudi Arabia was complicit in the Sept. 11 attacks. “The 28 pages primarily relate to who financed 9/11, and they point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier,” Mr. Graham said last month as he pressed for the pages to be made public.
Relatives of those killed on Sept. 11 as well as plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against Saudi Arabia have also demanded that the pages be made public, seeing them as the vital link that they believe connects an important ally of the United States to the deadly attacks. They say the pages, Part 4 of the report, could also help in determining the source of current funding for terrorist activities.
“If we stop funding of terrorism and hold those people accountable, wouldn’t it make a dent in the financing of terrorism today?” asked William Doyle, whose son, Joseph, was killed in the World Trade Center. Mr. Doyle said that President Obama personally assured him after the death of Osama bin Laden that he would declassify that section of the report.
Proponents of releasing Part 4, titled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain National Security Matters,” have suggested that the Bush and Obama administrations have held it back for fear of alienating an influential military and economic partner rather than for any national security consideration.
Others familiar with that section of the report say that while it might implicate Saudi Arabia, the suspicions, investigatory leads and other findings it contains did not withstand deeper scrutiny. Philip D. Zelikow, the executive director of the national commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks after the congressional panels, said the commission followed up on the allegations, using some of the same personnel who wrote them initially, but reached a different conclusion.
“Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of Al Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization,” the commission said in its July 2004 report. It did note, however, the “likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to Al Qaeda.”
Mr. Zelikow pointed to the more thorough investigation undertaken by the commission.
“Those involved in the preparation of the famous 28 pages joined the staff of the 9/11 Commission and participated in the follow-up investigation of all the leads that had been developed earlier,” he said Wednesday. “In doing so, they were aided by a larger team with more members, more powers and for the first time actually conducted interviews of relevant people both in this country and in Saudi Arabia.”
“And what we found is reflected in the commission report,” he said.
Demands for the release of the 28 pages began soon after the intelligence committees finished their work. In 2003, more than 40 senators called on Mr. Bush to order the material’s disclosure. He refused, saying “we won’t reveal sources and methods that will compromise our efforts to succeed” in fighting terrorism.
The Saudi government has also said it favored making the 28 pages public because that would make it easier to refute what it said were unfounded allegations. The embassy said Wednesday that it stood by that position
Representative Walter B. Jones, a North Carolina Republican pushing for the release of Part 4, said the Moussaoui claims might give momentum to the declassification effort. He said he was approached Wednesday on the House floor by lawmakers inquiring how to view the 28 pages.
But there seemed to be little appetite for declassification among the Republican leaders of the intelligence panels. Senator Richard M. Burr, the North Carolina Republican who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was skeptical of the value of releasing the pages, calling them more of a historical document in a fight against terrorism that has shifted substantially since 2002.
“There may have been a level of participation by some Muslim country that is not commensurate with today,” he said.
Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said “the authority to declassify this document lies with President Obama.”
Advocates of releasing the document have been frustrated by Mr. Obama, noting that Democrats were much more aggressive in pushing for its disclosure when Mr. Bush was president.
Mr. Doyle and Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband, Ronald, was killed on Sept. 11 in the World Trade Center, say the president assured them during separate meetings with families of the victims of the attack that he saw no reason the document should be withheld.
Mr. Doyle said he encouraged Mr. Obama at a meeting in May 2011 with surviving family members to follow through on a pledge he made two years earlier to Ms. Breitweiser. “He said: ‘Bill, I know about the pages. I promise I am going to get them released,’ ” Mr. Doyle recounted.
The White House said it was responding to the calls to consider releasing the material.
“This administration, in response to a congressional request, last year asked the intelligence community to conduct a classification review of this material,” said Edward C. Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council. “We did so in keeping with the standard procedure for determining whether classified information can be publicly released without jeopardizing national security. That process is ongoing.”
Saudi Princes’ Deep Ties to the West:
Three of the Saudi princes accused by the Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui have strong diplomatic and business ties to the United States.
— Prince Bandar bin Sultan was known as “the toast of Washington” who had an “aura of charming roguishness” when he served as Saudi ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. He is a nephew of King Salman and King Abdullah, who died last month. Prince Bandar, 65, had been close to President George Bush and his son, President George W. Bush, and helped deliver Saudi support for America’s crucial Middle East initiatives during three wars and the fight against terrorism.
He was the head of Saudi intelligence from 2012 until last April, and had been the architect of Riyadh’s plan to remove President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and lobbied against an interim nuclear accord with Iran.
— Prince Turki al-Faisal, 69, is another of the king’s nephews. He replaced Prince Bandar as the Saudi ambassador in Washington in 2005 and served in that post for two years. He was the head of Saudi intelligence from 1977 until Aug. 31, 2001, and managed Riyadh’s relations with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar of the Taliban.
In an interview in 2005, he said the accusation contained in a lawsuit, later dismissed, that he provided support to Al Qaeda “was kind of a slap in the face.”
— Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, at 59 is a grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdulaziz, and is chairman of the Kingdom Holding Company and the wealthiest member of the royal family. (The rapper Busta Rhymes namechecks Prince Alwaleed in the 2008 song “Arab Money.”) He owns Rotana, the Arab world’s largest entertainment company, and holds significant investments in Citigroup, TimeWarner, Twitter and Apple, among other companies. He had a large stake in News Corporation until Tuesday, when his company sold $188 million worth of its shares, according to Financial Times.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Prince Alwaleed offered Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani $10 million for the Twin Towers Fund, but Mr. Giuliani rejected it after the prince criticized American policy in the Middle East.
Some of the Comments:
BOS 7 minutes ago
Tangential it may be, judging from the comments written about this thus far the former First Lady Barbara Bush is right when she said the…
12 minutes ago
President Obama should release these classified documents. Not only is it the right thing to do, it will guarantee that no Bush will ever…
13 minutes ago
Didn’t Saudis fly out of the country one day after 9/11 when all planes were grounded, and yet no outcries.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The so called Islamic State has shown that there is no limit to their subhuman nature. It is first for all God Fearing Muslims to act against them – and also for all Europeans that remember what happens if you accept something like the Holocaust – to rally behind decent Muslims and help them exterminate this 21st Century insanity that came into our living rooms via the sensationalism loving corporate mass media.
King Abdullah II has done the right thing terminating by hanging the life-license of convicted mass-murderers. The IS leaders that managed her wanted her release in exchange of a Jordanian pilot whom they burned alive five weeks ago and released only now a video showing that act thinking that this will frighten us to submit some more to them. Weak minded people of the West might indeed equivocate and wait uselessly for a sign from the oil-sellers that taking serious steps against this menace is allowed.
The Jordanian pilot was shot down over the city of Rakka – the capital of their Islamic State located in what used to be called Syria – on Christmas day 2014 – in an American led bombing action. The immediate reaction called for now is for Jordan to obliterate the city of sin – Rakka – and for Europe to applaud such an action. Just remember that in 1942 the US refused to save innocent people by refusing to bomb the railways leading to the extermination camps. We did not forget and the Arabs are called not to forget now that burning pilot.
Further, and we do not feel this is unrelated – we call for Europe to unite under an Angela Merkel – Merkel Plan for a strong European Union – by starting with a plan to deal with the insolvency of the Greek State by seriously reducing their debt that was instigated by irresponsible capitalism pushing money on folks they knew had no economy that would ever return those funds.
It is rather a United Europe that could back States like Jordan – to do the right thing in the face of the 21st century scourge.
Next, we need a Green Economy to repair the devastation caused by the income-inequality fossil fuel economy over the last 40 years. Justice requires the wealthy to voluntarily adopt a Maximum Income to help repay their debts to society that came from taking money from people and treasuries and transferring it to oil exporters that then used it to fuel this pseudo-Islamic fury.
Muslim Outrage Against Islamic State after Killing of Jordanian Pilot – Liz Sly and Hugh Naylor
Declarations of outrage swept the Middle East on Wednesday as the spectacle of an Arab pilot being burned alive in a cage triggered some of the harshest reactions yet. The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat headlined its coverage: “Barbarity,” while Iyad Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the killing as an affront to Islam. “Most of the people executed by [the Islamic State] have been foreigners, but this time it was an Arab Muslim man,” said Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst ba sed in Amman.
However, Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on ISIS who advises the Iraqi government, said, “The Islamic State has gained more from this than it has lost.” In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State broadcast video of the pilot’s death on giant video screens as crowds shouted, “God is Great.” (Washington Post)
See also Muslim Clerics Denounce Burning Alive of Pilot as Un-Islamic – Sami Aboudi and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, Egypt’s top Muslim authority, said the killers themselves deserved to be “killed, crucified or to have their limbs amputated.” In Qatar, the International Association of Muslim Scholars, headed by Youssef al-Qaradawi and linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, called the burning of t he pilot a criminal act. (Reuters)
So what now?
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 4th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Sustainable Energy Revolution Grows, Says Bloomberg Report
Despite strong resistance on the part of the fossil-fuel sector and some policymakers, a new way of thinking about energy is taking hold.
by ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT, Wednesday, 04 February 2015.
Article reprinted by Truthout from EcoWatch of Bloomberg
The third annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook released today documents the continuing dramatic changes in how the U.S. produces, delivers and consumes energy, and makes some projections and predictions about the direction of the energy sector in the future. The report was researched and produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and commissioned by The Business Council for Sustainable Energy.
“To single out just a few tell-tale headlines from the hundreds of statistics presented in this report: over the 2007-2014 period, U.S. carbon emissions from the energy sector dropped 9 percent, U.S. natural gas production rose 25 percent and total U.S. investment in clean energy (renewables and advanced grid, storage and electrified transport technologies) totaled $386 billion,” the report said.
The report backs up what other studies have been showing—that despite strong resistance on the part of the fossil-fuel sector and some policymakers, a new way of thinking about energy is taking hold. The factbook points to four significant trends:
– the advance in infrastructure projects and technology to accommodate new forms of energy;
– more capital flowing to projects aimed at sustainable energy development with the U.S. attracting the second highest
number of dollars after China;
– companies with high energy-related costs gravitating to the U.S.; and
– government policies that favor the development of clean energy sources.
In regard to government policies, it specifically cites President Obama’s proposed Clean Power Plan, announced in June, to retire coal-fired plants and the historic agreement struck between the U.S. and China in November in which the U.S. pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025 while China would reach peak emissions by 2030.
“The 2015 Factbook clearly shows that America is on the path to a more sustainable energy sector,” said Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “Our energy productivity is rising along with economic growth, while energy-intensive industries are onshoring production to the United States to take advantage of low energy costs. All of this is happening as investment in clean energy continues to grow and as new natural gas infrastructure continues to come online. These are strong positive signs for America’s economy and environment.”
The U.S. is becoming more “energy productive” with its economic growth decoupled from the growth in demand for electricity, according to the report. “Between 1950 and 1990, electricity demand grew at an annual rate of just below 6%,” it says. “Between 1990 and 2007, it grew at an annual of 1.9%. Between 2007 and 2014, annualized electricity demand growth has been … zero.”
The trend toward decarbonization continues with renewable energy’s share of the total energy mix rising from 7 percent in 2007 to 13 percent in 2014. Since 2000, 93 percent of new U.S. power capacity has been natural gas, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal or other renewable projects. Investment in the clean energy sector has grown hand in hand with that, adding up to $386 billion since 2007 and increasing by 7 percent in 2014 over 2013’s level.
“Against the backdrop of a surging economy and crumbling oil prices, major trends around decarbonization and improving energy productivity continued in the United States,” said Michel Di Capua, head of Americas research for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Low-carbon energy technologies stand to benefit from key policies proposed in 2014, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation for the power sector and an innovative new vision for the electricity market in New York State.”
The report finds that gasoline consumption in the transportation sector is down by 8 percent, due to a combination of factors including more energy-efficient vehicles, the public’s preference for those vehicles and a decline in driving, as well as the still small but growing adoption of hybrid and electric vehicles. Yet conversely the factbook says, thanks largely to fracking, U.S. oil production has grown by 41 percent since 2007 and “has returned to levels not seen since the 1980s.”
It also points to some retrenchment in clean energy growth. In what will seem like mixed news to many renewable energy advocates, the contribution of natural gas to U.S. electricity generation has declined somewhat since 2013, and thanks to a drop in energy prices, that has allowed coal to become more competitive and regain a small piece of its market share, ticking up to 39 percent in 2013 and 2014, after dropping to 37 percent in 2012 from 49 percent in 2007. But longer-term trends, especially the closing of coal-fired power plants, will probably not sustain such growth in the future. Carbon emissions have increased as well, although that trend too is likely to reverse as coal-fired plants are shut down.
The final area of backtracking the factbook points to is the uncertainty over the very government policies the report says have fueled growth in the sustainable energy sector. Regarding President Obama’s Clean Energy Plan and the U.S.-China agreement, it says, “Neither policy will come easy. Legal challenges to the EPA’s proposal are underway, and achievement of the 2025 pledge will require new policy action.”
The enactment of policies at the state level that encouraged investment in and growth of wind and solar power has not just slowed down but shows signs of reversing. In 2014, Ohio froze its renewable energy standards, which has reduced job growth and investments in solar and wind projects, while Arizona is considering a tax on rooftop solar installations, and other states are discussing such backward moves, including the Hoosier state.
“Policy actions taken by the U.S. in 2014 have set the stage for a potentially momentous global climate summit at Paris in December 2015,” says the report. “The U.S.-China pact was the most notable achievement in the global climate negotiations process in 2014. Such public pledges from China and the U.S. (the world’s first and second biggest emitters, respectively) have the potential to challenge other nations to do more as well. The summit to be held in Paris at the end of 2015 will be the most significant multilateral climate negotiations since the discussions in Copenhagen in 2009. The growth of sustainable energy is a critical part of achieving any targets that might be struck under diplomatic deals on greenhouse gas emissions.”
Some Comments on Truthout:
bobaka • 5 hours ago
You exclude the most important point your ideological blinders prevent you from seeing. The basic problem with power is that it is a source of private greed. All power must be a public utility and the 1% will no longer be able to bankroll their goons into office on a flood of profits–huge profits off the mass market that individual power users are forced into. Get the elitist beasts off our backs and we would all have solar.
SinglePayer2017 • 7 hours ago
Great. Next, we need a Green Economic Revolution to repair the devastation caused by the income-inequality fossil fuel economy over the last 40 years. Restorative justice requires the wealthy to voluntarily adopt a Maximum Income to repay their debts to society.
Here’s The Plan:
Maximum Income Tax + Guaranteed Income = Reparations, Economic Justice
This formula represents a Green New Deal to tackle structural income inequality. The Maximum Income is the only way to keep the rich from going crazy and jumping into the abyss…again. The Guaranteed Income is the only humane way to deal with the despair and homelessness caused by a militarized economy that values one lousy, outdated plane more than the lives of its own citizens.
Human Rights need to be integrated into the accounting equation. Next to the Stockholders’ Equity account, we need a Workers’ Equity account, so working people can enjoy the same dividends as the rich do now. The poorest should have a Guaranteed Income, so poverty will still have dignity, and the rich need to learn that all things have limits, including wealth.
Or, you can ignore this advice, and hope for a better deal from the angry mobs…I hear them talking about guillotines an awful lot these days.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Slump in Oil Prices Brings Pressure, and Investment Opportunity
By MICHAEL CORKERY and PETER EAVIS, posted by the New York Times February 3, 2015
Scores of debt-laden oil companies face struggles that could lead to layoffs and losses for banks and investors. At the same time, new fortunes stand to be made.
THE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE CAN BE FOUND AS “DEALBOOK” n the BUSINESS SECTION of the NYT of February 3, 2015 and we were at first happy seeing it – we thought that the upcoming businesses will be energy businesses – NOT JUST OIL BUSINESSES – but this is not yet to happen at The New York Times. Seemingly the Board of Editors still thinks that ENERGY IS A SYNONYM FOR OIL – so – the gist of the article is that some oil businesses will go bust but other oil businesses will bloom. The difference is in money borrowed. OK – there is truth in this but not the whole truth about the larger aspect of energy and the economy. THE FUTURE WILL TELL and totally new – non-petroleum industries will make it.
On a different website we found for the DEALMAKER’S Post the following:
PRESSURE RISES AS OIL FALLS | As cracks are appearing in the latest energy boom, “the forces of failure and opportunity are stirring again,” DealBook’s Michael Corkery and Peter Eavis write. Among the companies that are hurting is Resolute Energy, a Colorado company that lenders showered with hundreds of millions of dollars during the boom. Similar struggles could take place at scores of other companies, leading to layoffs and losses for banks and investors. But at the same time, Mr. Corkery and Mr. Eavis write, “new fortunes stand to be made.”
“Easy money has abruptly come to an end, mostly because oil prices have plunged, potentially making life much harder for companies like Resolute,” they add. “Many companies, which only a few months ago were the toast of the high-yield debt and initial public offering markets, suddenly cannot raise additional equity or sell bonds. A few lenders have started reining in bank lines and more are expected to tighten loan terms in the coming months.”
“?The latest boom was defined by risk-taking that involved deploying new technologies in oil fields that were once thought not productive drilling sites. As the free flow of credit dwindles, however, energy analysts expect much more caution from an industry that has been willing to bet the farm on increasingly ambitious projects,” Mr. Corkery and Mr. Eavis write. Now, signs of trouble have “brought out Wall Street’s bottom feeders.” But the energy companies, many of which will not face pressure to pay back borrowed money for many months, are not going to give up easily.
AND ANOTHER POSTING on the NYT BUSINESSESS DEALBOOK SAYS that those that hold a lot of cash outside the US and never pay a penny to the US Treasury – will be very upset at President Obama who wants to make sense by reorganizing the TAX CODE:
OBAMA’S TAX REFORM IRKS BUSINESS WORLD | Overhauling corporate tax legislation has been a regular refrain from corporate America’s chief executives, Andrew Ross Sorkin writes in the DealBook Column. And on Monday, he writes, “the business world got its wish from President Obama ? a proposed overhaul of corporate tax policy in the United States ? but not in the way it might have hoped.”
“President Obama’s budget calls for a lower overall tax rate ? 28 percent, down from 35 percent. But it also calls for a one-time 14 percent tax on all cash sitting overseas and a 19 percent tax on all foreign profits in the future, minus taxes paid abroad,” Mr. Sorkin adds. The one-time tax would hit hardest the businesses with huge cash piles abroad like G.E. and Apple. Big business greeted the plan, at least privately, with disgust, if not disdain.
Mr. Sorkin writes: “Here’s the rub: While chief executives often give lip service to the need for corporate tax reform ? and some believe in it ? when it comes right down to it, companies aren’t necessarily interested in a simpler tax system, just one that significantly lightens their tax burden.” The problem is that the true tax rate for cash held abroad is zero because foreign profits are not taxed in the United States unless the money is brought back. This means that any rate higher than zero hits the company’s bottom line ? not something big business is likely to cheer.
THIS IS THE REALITY SERVED BY THE NEW YORK TIMES – THE CORPORATE WORLD THAT DOES NOT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE UNITED STATES OR THE WORLD – JUST ABOUT THE SIZE OF THEIR BANK ACCOUNT AND MAKING SURE THEY DO NOT SPEND ON CREATING A MARKET THAT HAS IN IT A MODICUM OF SUSTAINABILITY THAT IN EFFECT IS NEEDED TO HAVE THEM CONTINUE ON A MONEY MAKING STREAK.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Progressive Policies Are Popular – So Why Should Democrats Be Afraid of Them?
Saturday, 31 January 2015 13:27
By Keane Bhatt, FAIR | Op-Ed – re-posted by Truthout.
CNN’s post-speech discussion of Barack Obama’s State of the Union address included anchor Wolf Blitzer’s reaction to colleague Jake Tapper’s view that the president had outlined a liberal economic agenda. Blitzer’s analysis illustrates the logic behind corporate media’s longstanding efforts to dissuade politicians from advocating for progressive policies:
TAPPER: Of course, most of the speech, the body of the speech, was a very progressive, very liberal economic message about trying to help the middle class…. [It] was about new tax cuts, about the $3,000 per child per year, paid sick leave or paid maternity leave, raising the minimum wage, lowering the cost of community college to zero.
BLITZER: I think it’s fair to say, had he put forward all these new initiatives before the midterm elections – was afraid to do so, because he feared it could hurt Democrats who were up in a tough reelection or election season. As a result, he didn’t do any of those things before the midterms, but now after the midterms, [with] two years to go, he feels emboldened, almost liberated, ready to move on with these new very progressive or very liberal initiatives.
According to Blitzer, policy proposals such as paid sick leave and maternity leave, an increased minimum wage and free community college are all liabilities to pragmatic Democrats concerned with winning elections – which explains Obama’s reticence prior to November’s midterm elections. However, public opinion polls show widespread support for those measures, including, in many cases, from Republican voters.
A CNN poll (6/9/14) found 71 percent of the public supporting an increase in the minimum wage, including a majority of Republicans and conservatives. In November, voters in the Republican-leaning states of Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Alaska passed ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage by large margins (Huffington Post, 11/4/14).
A HuffPost/YouGov poll (6/20/13) found that 74 percent of the US public supports requiring companies to offer paid sick leave to their employees; paid maternity leave garnered 61 percent approval. In a number of recent polls, the idea of free community college received majority support (The Hill, 1/20/15)–one poll found that more Republicans favored the measure than opposed it, rather remarkable given that the idea was only recently popularized by President Obama himself.
So it’s not voters’ preferences that, in Blitzer’s words, “could hurt Democrats” facing elections. A likelier reason is election funding. Political scientists Walter Dean Burnham and Thomas Ferguson observed that politicians largely depended on financing from economic elites (AlterNet, 12/18/14) in what were probably the most expensive midterms in history (Washington Post, 10/22/14)
The President and the Democratic Party are almost as dependent on big money–defined, for example, in terms of the percentage of contributions (over $500 or $1,000) from the 1 percent–as the Republicans. To expect top-down, money-driven political parties to make strong economic appeals to voters is idle.
In the context of low-turnout elections largely financed by economic elites, policies such as minimum wage increases and paid sick leave, which force financial concessions from the wealthy, do indeed “hurt Democrats.” It is in part this conflict that explains high-profile Democrats’ lack of advocacy on those measures. As The Atlantic reported (6/18/14), “Hillary Clinton isn’t against federally mandated family leave–she just doesn’t think it’s politically feasible”:
“I think, eventually, it should be [implemented],” Clinton said at CNN’s town-hall meeting Tuesday to promote her new book, Hard Choices. But she immediately qualified her position: “I don’t think, politically, we could get it now.”…
A bipartisan poll conducted on behalf of the National Partnership for Women and Families, a pro-leave group, just after the 2012 election, found that 86 percent of Americans supported leave–including 96 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans. The poll inspired new hope that President Obama might take up leave in his second term.
Instead–vindicating Clinton’s opinion that leave is politically impossible right now–the issue has all but disappeared.
Although congressional Democrats had crafted the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which provided employees with 12 weeks of paid leave, President Obama did not endorse the bill (The Week, 6/27/14). The Washington Post (6/23/14) found that “five and a half years after taking office, Obama has no proposal on the table for paid family leave.”
Now that Barack Obama faces Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, Blitzer characterizes the president as “liberated” and “emboldened” to stake out a policy agenda that is now safely off the table. Policies that promote economic justice, which are broadly popular, are considered divisive within the corporate media until they’re rendered impossible. Then media pundits can wink at one other about how politicians are shrewdly courting voters with agendas they cannot possibly fulfill.
And what does it look like when politicians heed the corporate media’s call for bipartisanship? Obama’s full-throated advocacy for the Trans-Pacific Partnership in his State of the Union is one example. The highly secretive, pro-corporate trade agreement threatens to exacerbate the very inequality that the president sought to highlight in his speech, and is opposed by leading economists and many top legislators of own party (Huffington Post, 1/20/15, 1/21/15).
In an article headlined “Poll Finds Agenda Gap Between Leaders, American People,” the Wall Street Journal (1/21/15) noted President Obama’s priority of signing the trade deal was met by a public “virtually yawning at the prospect.” Only 20 percent considered it an “urgent priority,” the paper noted.
Thomas Ferguson offered a simple commentary on this agenda gap (Real News Network, 12/27/14): “You’ve been running these sort of big money-driven elections for quite some time, and it’s policy disappointment that’s driving down the voter turnout.” A far better strategy, he suggested, would be “to do something for the population instead of the 1 percent.”
If politicians were to ignore corporate pundits and instead energized otherwise-apathetic voters with an actual commitment to popular policies, they would offer a solution to voters’ yawns.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 31st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The following is an article about how bad for the people – all people – it will be if the US Pharmaceutical Industry gets its way and manages to write the rules of the so called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) so they outlaw trade in generic drugs – even outlaw their production! TPP has thus the potential of harming poorer counties citizens by putting rains of law into Washington’s hands – not just on drugs, but on most environmental and labor laws as well.
We re-post the article with Europe in mind and the debate in EU countries if to let in the American Trojan Horse which is painted as a US-EU potential Free Trade Partnership – the the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T.T.I.P.). Our opinion is clear – DON’T TOUCH IT.
The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Don’t Trade Away Our Health
By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ – The New York Tines Op-Ed, January 30, 2015
A secretive group met behind closed doors in New York this week. What they decided may lead to higher drug prices for you and hundreds of millions around the world.
Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries.
Among the topics negotiators have considered are some of the most contentious T.P.P. provisions — those relating to intellectual property rights. And we’re not talking just about music downloads and pirated DVDs. These rules could help big pharmaceutical companies maintain or increase their monopoly profits on brand-name drugs.
The secrecy of the T.P.P. negotiations makes them maddeningly opaque and hard to discuss. But we can get a pretty good idea of what’s happening, based on documents obtained by WikiLeaks from past meetings (they began in 2010), what we know of American influence in other trade agreements, and what others and myself have gleaned from talking to negotiators.
Trade agreements are negotiated by the office of the United States Trade Representative, supposedly on behalf of the American people. Historically, though, the trade representative’s office has aligned itself with corporate interests. If big pharmaceutical companies hold sway — as the leaked documents indicate they do — the T.P.P. could block cheaper generic drugs from the market. Big Pharma’s profits would rise, at the expense of the health of patients and the budgets of consumers and governments.
There are two ways the office of the trade representative can use the T.P.P. to maintain or raise drug prices and profits.
The first is to restrict competition from generics. It’s axiomatic that more competition means lower prices. When companies have to fight for customers, they end up cutting their prices. When a patent expires, any company can enter the market with a generic version of a drug. The differences in prices between brand-name and generic drugs are mind- and budget-blowing. Just the availability of generics drives prices down: In generics-friendly India, for example, Gilead Sciences, which makes an effective hepatitis-C drug, recently announced that it would sell the drug for a little more than 1 percent of the $84,000 it charges here.
That’s why, since the United States opened up its domestic market to generics in 1984, they have grown from 19 percent of prescriptions to 86 percent, by some accounts saving the United States government, consumers and employers more than $100 billion a year. Drug companies stand to gain handsomely if the T.P.P. limits the sale of generics.
The second strategy is to undermine government regulation of drug prices. More competition is not the only way to keep down the prices of essential goods and services. Governments can also directly restrain prices through law, or effectively restrain them by denying reimbursement to patients for “overpriced” drugs — thus encouraging companies to bring down their prices to approved levels. These regulatory approaches are especially important in markets where competition is limited, as it is in the drug market. If the United States Trade Representative gets its way, the T.P.P. will limit the ability of partner countries to restrict prices. And the pharmaceutical companies surely hope the “standard” they help set in this agreement will become global — for example, by becoming the starting point for United States negotiations with the European Union over the same issues.
Americans might shrug at the prospect of soaring drug prices around the world. After all, the United States already allows drug companies to charge what they want. But that doesn’t mean we might not want to change things someday. Here again, the T.P.P. has us cornered: Trade agreements, and in particular individual provisions within them, are typically far more difficult to alter or repeal than domestic laws.
Of course, pharmaceutical companies claim they need to charge high prices to fund their research and development. This just isn’t so. For one thing, drug companies spend more on marketing and advertising than on new ideas. Overly restrictive intellectual property rights actually slow new discoveries, by making it more difficult for scientists to build on the research of others and by choking off the exchange of ideas that is critical to innovation. As it is, most of the important innovations come out of our universities and research centers, like the National Institutes of Health, funded by government and foundations.
The efforts to raise drug prices in the T.P.P. take us in the wrong direction. The whole world may come to pay a price in the form of worse health and unnecessary deaths.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a professor at Columbia and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is the author of “The Price of Inequality.”
A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 31, 2015, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Don’t Trade Away Our Health.
Some of the FIRST COMMENTS:
Kodali 11 minutes ago
Big Pharmaceutical companies try to do what is in their interests. But, US Trade representative is representing the people of the United…
NKB 11 minutes ago
Why so much commentary before nothing is clear about the actual content of the TPP? Although the negotiations are secret right now, will the…
Gerald 13 minutes ago
Are Chicago type “PAY TO PLAY” taxpayer-dollar-paid-for “Solyndra” loans and/or “CGI Federal” type “Pay to Play” no-bid US government…
THE NEW YORK TIMES ANSWERS:
We can’t be sure which of these features have made it through this week’s negotiations. What’s clear is that the overall thrust of the intellectual property section of the T.P.P. is for less competition and higher drug prices. The effects will go beyond the 12 T.P.P. countries. Barriers to generics in the Pacific will put pressure on producers of such drugs in other countries, like India, as well.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 31st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Most of Public and About Half in GOP Back Climate Action
By Coral Davenport and Marjorie Connelly, The New York Times, 30 January 2015
An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group (“Natural Resources for Industry” Oriented – this is our editor’s addition) “Resources for the Future”.
In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science that determined that humans caused global warming.
Among Republicans, 48 percent said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called “the most powerful finding” in the poll. Many Republican candidates either question the science of climate change or do not publicly address the issue.> “It recruits more Tea Partyers than it repels,” Mr. Krosnick said.
READ MORE AT: www.nytimes.com/2015/01/31/us/pol…
Some of the Comments:
+3 # Dust 2015-01-30 16:44
The question becomes one primarily of world view. Interestingly enough, nobody wants to be considered “unscientific”, so they begin with an a-prior view and look for evidence that that can classify as “science” to support it. (Most people do this, regardless of viewpoint, but people who are truly interested in science refer to science and change their views accordingly).
The parallels to the “creation science / intelligent design” paradigm are fairly clear. Nobody wants to outright dismiss science, so they define the only valid sources of scientific research in increasingly limited and constrained ways. CS/ID people produce NO science of their own; the only thing they do is use their modified version of science to produce what appear to be legitimate questions or holes in the field of evolutionary biology. (FWIW – they also confuse the fields of evolutionary biology and physics). They then assert that ANY lack of perfect understanding in evolutionary theory is clearly grounds to dismiss the entire thing.
A similar parallel can be found in the field of encryption and cryptanalysis. Folks read a standard reference like Applied Cryptography in C and set out to write their own encryption algorithm. Now – THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS!! But when their lack of understanding comes to the fore and their work is not taken seriously by cryptanalysts, the intelligent thing to do is learn more about the field, not scream that there is a conspiracy against you.
+2 # Ken Halt 2015-01-30 16:45
Interesting to read some of the uninformed comments in the article. The MSM and Koch affiliates have been very effective with their propaganda
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
You Think Sarah Palin Is Incoherent? Listen To Jeb Bush.
January 26, 2015
By Bill Scher of The Campaign for America’s Future www.ourFuture.org
Many people are having a good laugh watching Sarah Palin’s unintentionally hilarious speech to a conservative gathering in Iowa over the weekend. But Palin is never going to get anywhere near the White House.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco Friday, someone else gave a painfully incoherent speech. “And since the speaker really could end up in the White House, it’s actually worth your attention.”
Jeb Bush’s address to the National Automobile Dealers Association attracted much positive press. He was willing to challenge conservative orthodoxy on immigration and education. He sounded like an adult, eschewing sophomoric right-wing zingers.
He maturely identified problems facing average Americans and offered ideas to solve them.
Sounds refreshing. There’s just one problem. When you pay attention to what he is saying, the speech doesn’t make any sense.
Take this passage:
Far from spreading opportunity, our government now gets in the way, each and every day. Another law, another tax, another fee, or another regulation – it all stands in the way of a new business, a new invention, a new job and most importantly, rising income for American families. The great stories that were told here today of successful dealerships – it’s harder today to do exactly what you all have done to achieve earned success.
In other words, government is making things so hard for business … that auto dealers are doing really well.
In fact NADA just announced that, “Light-vehicle sales for 2014 amounted to 16.4 million units up 5.8 percent from 2013 making 2014 the year with the highest sales since 2006.” Also, truck sales are up 17.5 percent from last year. And the NADA annual report from May summing up 2013 said “the annual financial profile of America’s franchised new-car dealerships—shows a robust and highly competitive industry that is helping boost the U.S. economy. Last year, for example, dealerships employed more than 1 million people in their communities.”
Now here’s Jeb talking about economic growth and taxation:
Our nation’s economy used to grow at 3.5 to 4 percent, that was the norm throughout all but the last 15 years … we had a stable and growing middle class … now, in spite of the last few months which have been good economic news, the new normal if you talk to the smart people that decide these things, the new normal is 1.5 to 2 percent growth. And the challenge with that is, if we’re to grow at that rate, kind of the European economic model, we’re not going to be able to build the kind of capacity for people to pursue their dreams as they see fit … No amount of exotic forms of taxation proposed by our president or the progressives in this country comes close to the kind of revenue that government would get if we were to grow at 3.5 or 4 percent a year.
Jeb tries to shrug off the “last few months” as some sort of meaningless fluke. But we’ve had back-to-back quarters of growth faster than what Jeb desires: 4.6 and 5 percent.
Furthermore, despite this being his first 2016 stump speech, Jeb seems to have not updated his numbers since the recent boomlet. “The smart people” at the Federal Reserve and the National Association of Business Economics foresee a solid year for growth in 2015 at around 3 percent.
And contrary to Jeb’s attack on progressives, all this growth is happening after President Obama installed the most progressive tax code in 35 years.
When talking about the history of growth, Jeb is forced to deride “the last 15 years” of subpar performance, encompassing his brother’s tenure without calling him out by name. But his brother’s record matters in this history. George W. Bush famously cut taxes, only to preside over the biggest economic recession since the Great Depression. Before that, President Clinton simultaneously experienced strong economic growth while raising taxes on the wealthy.
So why is Jeb using “fuzzy math” to pit progressive taxation against economic growth?
Jeb’s ideological blinders get stronger as he turns to how he would improve economic growth. His first prescription: “We need to reform our health care system … Obamacare is clearly a job killer.”
Huh? Let’s check the record: The Obama economy has created more than 10 million private sector jobs since of the recession in mid-2009 (Obamacare was signed into law March 2010). Compare that to the Bush economy, which lost 462,000 private sector jobs.
We proved that we can simultaneously regulate health care and create jobs. But we can’t fail to regulate Wall Street and still create jobs.
The final bizarre part of Jeb’s address was his recommendations for energy policy.
Talking as if we are still living in George W. Bush’s America, Jeb complains that we are too dependent on foreign oil: “$300 billion left our country to countries that either are unstable and could hate us if there was regime change, or already do hate us.” But once again contradicting himself, he acknowledges how energy independent we’ve become in recent years, following his critique by observing “the United States is fast becoming the largest producer of oil and gas in the world.”
In fact, on Obama’s watch we’ve slashed the amount of oil we import from those awful regimes, because of the oil and gas boom Jeb lauds and Obama’s environmental regulations Jeb ignores.
Jeb proceeds to praise the fracking-fueled rise in natural gas production, and when describing his energy policy recommendations, he insinuates federal regulators are acting in a hostile way to the industry: “Washington shouldn’t try to regulate hydraulic fracking out of business. It should be done reasonably and thoughtfully to protect the natural environment, but it shouldn’t be done with the intent of paralyzing it.”
Who in Washington is Jeb talking about trying to kill fracking? Not President Obama. Here’s what Obama said about fracking in the 2014 State of the Union address: “America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades. One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”
In turn, the EPA has done nothing to paralyze fracking – as Jeb himself mentioned, we’re number one!
Instead, the EPA is working on methane emission regulations so natural gas lives up to the promise of being a net benefit for the climate. This regulatory strategy has been chosen precisely to negate the push to ban fracking. Jeb’s argument is textbook straw man, undercut by his own admission of the oil and gas boom happening under Obama.
Jeb wants to be seen as the grown-up in the 2016 field, the one person big enough to resist pandering to fringe right-wing factions, the one person you can trust to govern in a serious manner. But his incoherent policy speech is not serious, however soberly it was delivered. He is honest enough to mention the good things that have happened in the last six years, but not brave enough to acknowledge how they happened and adjust his ideological assumptions in response. As a result, his stump speech is incoherent mush.
He may be relatively sane compared to Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee or Chris Christie. He may even be more competent than his brother. But we should have a high bar for who becomes president. This contradictory mess of a speech falls well short.